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Jackson's Way

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

Chances are this is a masterpiece of inspired comic genius. But there's also the real possibility it's just a load of silly nonsense given structure and credence by an immensely impressive performance.

Either way, it's a hell of a lot more entertaining that the unpromising premise suggests. If there's one thing the Fringe doesn't need, it's another spoof on spurious life coaches or motivational gurus.

But Will Adamsdale, the man behind Chris John Jackson, has used the character for so much more than a predictable satire on this easiest of targets. Instead he has created his unique, weird and wonderful comic mindset which he imparts to the audience using every trick in the power-speaker's book.

There are obvious parody elements ­ and for this he has the character down perfectly, creating a careful, subtle mockery of all the psychobabble and oratorial trickery they employ.

Every little touch is covered: the drinking straw gaffer-taped to the side of his head to resemble a discrete microphone; the phoney precision in his language; the use of pseudo-vocabulary like 'instinctual'; the creation of pointless TLAs (three-letter abbreviations); or the way he vocalises imagined audiences responses to his pronouncements in order to make a point.

Jackson's Way turns out to be a method of improving your life by adding pointlessness to it. For example: by shaving bits off a bar of soap and simply leaving them in another room to absolutely no end whatsoever.

That's the basis for plenty of silly, surreal, Vic-and-Bob style imaginings ­ though these are only the punchlines. The way he explains the bogus philosophies behind these random acts is the real joy. Worryingly, you even start to wonder if he might be onto something at times, so perfect is the mimicry.

The show gradually spins into weirder and weirder territory: he changes words just for the sheer hell of it, develops a baffling blind-spot theory of 'looking at things beside things' and launches into an extract from an imaginary film set in America's Deep South, which he finds embedded in the Underbelly wall. By the end, we are in an underwater Jacques Cousteau world.

That description has probably left you befuddled, but Adamsdale gives all these strange elements a warped logic that makes some kind of sense, just as long as you don't think about it too hard.

Yet another stratum to this densely complex idea is the hint of dysfunction and madness that created Chris John Jackson in the first place; something involving a business park and his overbearing brother, that's satisfyingly never fully explained.

In his mesmerising performance, Adamsdale employs PTI by the shedload. That's Pushing Through with Intensity, for the uninitiated; for the rest who've taken this Level One taster, it will no doubt become a cultish catchphrase, alongside: "Achieved!"

He prowls and paces the stage, passionately espousing his theories, plucking ideas from the audience and maintaining a cracking tempo to the whole bizarre proceedings.

This is a show that divides an audience, and its Perrier acclaim will only widen that rift. But if you do 'get' it, the hour will be over far too quickly, and you'll want to jump straight back on the Jackson Express for another exhilarating ride.

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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