Jackson's Way / Sarah Kendall / Andrew Clover: Storyman
Various venues, Edinburgh
August, 2004

In a major upset, motivational speaker Chris John Jackson, the comic creation of British actor Will Adamsdale, beat off international competition to win this year's Perrier Award for comedy on the Edinburgh Fringe. The award, presented to him by Hollywood star Christian Slater on Saturday night, consists of £7502 (after additional donations from Slater and 2003 Perrier winner Demetri Martin) and a West End outing for the show Jackson's Way. The other nominees were Australian Sarah Kendall, American Reginald D Hunter, the comic play Epitaph (also American) and Mancunian Chris Addison. The Perrier Best Newcomer award went to Wil Hodgson, a pink-mohawked punk from Wiltshire with a powerful line in liberal outrage; Hodgson triumphed over Yorkshire wordsmith Alun Cochrane, character comedienne Joanna Neary and New Mexico sketch duo Sabotage.

The surprise is that Adamsdale is an actor rather than a comic, who originally booked Jackson's Way in Edinburgh for one week only. However, the run was extended and Jackson rapidly became the talk of the Fringe. His strange inspirational philosophy is that we should gain fulfilment by trying to perform pointless actions. He demonstrates by attempting fruitlessly, of course to put his hand in two different places at once, or to rhyme "rhythm" and "sausage". It's utterly absurd, but strangely fascinating.

I'd been quietly rooting for Kendall, following the early performance of her show I attended. After 15 years in the reviewing game, my first-ever instance of having my notepad taken and my notes read out onstage by a comedian happened at Kendall's hands. But she asked first, and my notes began by calling myself a pillock for not having liked her previous show. She's clever, engagingly insecure and as the business with my notes showed playful rather than confrontational.

A week later, my pad was nicked again, by Andrew Clover's cracked alter ego Maurice Clark in his show Storyman. This time, though, it happened by accident: he'd confused my notepad with the one he'd earlier given another punter. So instead of aperçus like, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it into a TV presenter," he found himself declaiming my semi-legible remarks about "filth riffs" and "mother issues".

Only in Edinburgh (1): I'm in one of the Fringe venues' club bars for performers and parasites. For some reason which now escapes me, I'm doing a mime routine about eating my fingers. It draws polite applause from my new friends. I admit that the routine was originated in the 1970s by mime artist and teacher Desmond Jones. "Oh," says Rufus from comedy team The Dutch Elm Conservatoire, surprised, "that's my Dad." In future, I'll take the credit myself.

Only In Edinburgh (2): Performers feel not just liberated but obliged to walk the streets in costume. Nowhere else would you hear the remark, "There are too many teenage whores in fishnets around," made with neither dubious relish nor puritan indignation but simply a weary ennui.

Call me Paula: I hit the wall some 75 shows into this year's Edinburgh marathon, and consequently missed Mark Watson's Over-Ambitious 24-Hour Show. "Guest Stars! Suffering!" promised the young comedian's flyers about his world record attempt. And when he'd completed his midnight-to-midnight ordeal... he started planning for next year, since the nice people at Guinness had sent him the wrong paperwork this time. Myself, I recovered to hit a personal best of 102 shows. Once again, Edinburgh rings with Chris John Jackson's victorious cry when a ludicrous task has been performed to the max: "Achieved!"

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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