Jackson's Way, The Underbelly, Edinburgh

How a touch of nonsense can improve your life
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The Independent Culture

One of the favourites for tonight's Perrier Award, Jackson's Way, has been selling out its Belly Laugh venue, a room that housed last year's Perrier Newcomer Gary Le Strange aka Waen Shepherd. It was an inauspicious start, though, with the show initially playing to tiny audiences in a slot that came up by chance and a run that was only meant to be a week long. Word spread and with it the buzz; audience numbers grew, allowing the run to extend. Of course word of mouth depends on who is spreading it. The fact that the comedian, Stewart Lee, has been to see it on numerous occasions and championed it is a clue that the show is made up of deliberately pointless observations that are crafted into something funny or interesting, sometimes both and sometimes neither.

One of the favourites for tonight's Perrier Award, Jackson's Way, has been selling out its Belly Laugh venue, a room that housed last year's Perrier Newcomer Gary Le Strange aka Waen Shepherd. It was an inauspicious start, though, with the show initially playing to tiny audiences in a slot that came up by chance and a run that was only meant to be a week long. Word spread and with it the buzz; audience numbers grew, allowing the run to extend. Of course word of mouth depends on who is spreading it. The fact that the comedian, Stewart Lee, has been to see it on numerous occasions and championed it is a clue that the show is made up of deliberately pointless observations that are crafted into something funny or interesting, sometimes both and sometimes neither.

When, as a child, I found myself wondering why bread wasn't called, say, humbug, a window opened upon the arbitrary world I was living in. Jackson, a "life coach", asks us to attempt to rename bread, to attempt the pointless and in that effort we will perhaps find an alternative meaning. But Jackson goes beyond the arbitrary and into the absurd when he attempts to wave to two people with the same hand simultaneously and rhyme "fireplace" with "balloon", all the time urging these failures to be "pushed through with intensity". These exercises set up the defining example of Jacksonian thought; that being pushed off a cliff is in fact attempting but failing to jump off it.

Will Adamsdale's performance as the motivational speaker and life coach is solid but not inspirational, yet in contrast to an actual life skills seminar - still a very American beast - the content is much more important than the skill of presentation. Occasionally we glimpse Jackson's demons, his overbearing brother for example, that help explain why he needs to empty his head of his paranoid, neurotic nonsense. I use the word nonsense not in a derogatory way but with a sense of affection or toleration that one would afford Edward Lear's Nonsense Rhymes.

While Lear's limericks might lodge in the brain like an annoying pop tune, Jackson's words leave an aftertaste that lingers well after leaving the show. Maybe you will find yourself defining your life in a Jacksonian manner, sitting in a café trying to pour coffee into your upturned mug and congratulating yourself for having the exact change to pay the bill if not to leave a tip. After a while you might remember the words of your life coach who asks: "Have you pushed the idea as far as it can go?" Yes, you will answer, and I laughed a bit as well.

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