BATTERSEA ARTS CENTRE
2004 Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Will Adamsdale plays spoof American life coach and motivational speaker Chris John Jackson in his offbeat and genuinely madcap show Jackson’s Way: The Christmas Top-up Power Seminar!
The show takes the form of a life coaching session which begins with a Jackson voiceover urging the audience to, Feel the energy in the room! And Harness their thoughts and feelings! As well as other assorted life-coaching bromides. Adamsdale makes good use of en vogue Mindfulness terminology about being present and litters it with the mediated language of modern warfare, Drone strike! Boots on the Ground and Tailspin are all used, to create a bizarre yet chillingly realistic motivational-speak lexicon
White trainer-wearing, chino-sporting, ear-piece donning Jackson finally emerges to the melodies of Coldplay, I forget which song, but does it really matter? He instantly starts banging on about the Jackson’s Way and Jactions, which are pointless tasks done for absolutely no reason at all, except they are pointless. E.g. picking up a discarded cup and finding another one exactly the same and swapping them over. Jackson calls this Trash Exchange. The show bounces along in Jackson’s illogical and wholly demented ‘way’, with excellent and ludicrous audience participation involving clapping, rhyming words that can’t rhyme, staring at a wall and trying to move the floor. Jackson produces nonsensical graphs and images to explain what he’s trying to achieve, which is never really clear, and the performance ends with him revealing his messiah complex as he places himself as the baby Jesus and then God in a nativity scene made out of junk that Jackson calls The Team.
Photo by Alex Brenner, Jason’s Way Christmas Top-Up @ BAC
Adamsdale’s frenetic energy and sharp-eyed satirical observations of the motivational speaking world keep this performance bundling along nicely. His likeable character is made more agreeable as he appears to be suffering from the delusion that his crackpot ‘way’ works, when in reality he’s actually in the grip of PTSD or other forms of mental illness shown through his irregular flashbacks and allusions to a rather painful past.
Like all good theatre, and comedy for that matter, the spotlight, although centred on the shambolic Jackson, in fact, shines a light on the audience and therefore the world we live in. Why is it that so many life coaches, motivational speakers, faith healers, psychics and televangelists become so successful? What is it about us collectively that puts some of these people on a pedestal and bows down in reverence to their way of doing things?
I suspect it has always been so. People’s lives are hard, they are unfulfilled and it’s easy to look for a ‘method’ of doing things in order to be richer, better looking, more successful, and happier. And in a culture where happiness is traded on material gain and in a system where we’re consistently told we’re free to go out and get what we want and that if we’re unhappy then it’s our own fault…and then the benchmark for ‘happy’ is set ridiculously high; big houses, expensive cars, perfect kids, fine clothes, lots of holidays, lots of parties, lots of friends, then it’s no wonder people will up look to any charlatan with any shady idea of how to help us. The con then becomes very lucrative.
Jackson’s Way is an amusing riot of a show, not to everyone’s tastes, and occasionally falling flat, it does however have more triumphs than stinkers and is well worth an hour of anyone’s time. Achieve!
Jackson’s Way: The Christmas Top-up Power Seminar is on at Battersea Arts Centre until the 12th December. Bookings here.