Will Adamsdale: Borders | Review by Marissa Burgess
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Will Adamsdale: Borders

Note: This review is from 2014

Review by Marissa Burgess

It's been ten years since Adamsdale won the Perrier award (as it was back then) with his motivational speaker Chris John Jackson. As he acknowledges here, it was a surprise win. One that angered comedians - 'Who is he? Where did he come from?' - he reckons, and one that wasn't grasped with both hands like many victors. Instead, he claims, he went travelling. He has been back to the Fringe since, though last year's run was cut short after he put his back out.

This year, like so many others, Adamsdale placed his title and brief description in the Fringe brochure way back in April with little clue what he was going to do. Did Adamsdale know what his enigmatic single word title would mean? . There are many meanings you can read into Borders .

The story starts with him alone in his flat for a week while his wife is away, just turned 40 and with a shelf full of unread books. Perfect conditions for writing an hour-long Edinburgh show. Also perfect conditions for a newly middle-aged man's slow nervous breakdown.

The show perfectly captures the creative process edging around a largely blank piece of paper, reluctant to cross over the margin into the 'main arena' of the page. At first it feels gently meandering, almost dreamlike, so it comes as a surprise when a strange structure begins to emerge.

Adamsdale begins with his elusive single-word title and starts to read borders into everything - countries, London districts, 80s Australian cricketer Allan Border. Unable to find the fare to Berwick-upon-Tweed, the king of border towns having switched between Scotland and England over the years, he instead heads out to the invisible line between Islington and Hackney.

In many ways this is a show about human behaviour and social norms, how we have artificially decided, by drawing lines on a maps, our boundaries on this planet. Closer to home Adamsdale experiments with crossing the boundaries in the room, standing too close to people, popping momentarily into the audience.

As with any creative process, there are many distractions. In Adamsdale’s case, it was mainly the animated figures from a now defunct bank advertising campaign which preyed on his mind. They are evocatively recreated even for those that can't remember the adverts, like me. The images he plants in your mind are absurd, hilarious and touching in equal measure. They culminate in a frenzy of obsession close to psychosis. That's another border right there, between sanity and insanity.

Adamsdale looks back across his life sectioning into boundaried compartments, such as arriving in Manchester for uni just as its Madchester heyday was waning, or his stunted TV acting career that peaked when he played a harpooned murder victim in ITV's Rosemary and Thyme.

Anyone who saw Jackson's Way will be unsurprised to learn that he puts on a measured performance full of subtleties and nuances; pulling his chair forward a few inches as he talks about the boundary between stage and audience, act and front row.

Borders is brilliant, baffling in places and incredibly beautiful. Just go with it, cross over and immerse yourself in his world.

Review date: 11 Aug 2014
Reviewed by: Marissa Burgess
Reviewed at: Underbelly Cowgate

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