Jackson's Way won its writer and performer Will Adamsdale the Perrier Award in 2004. This month the show is back, with Adamsdale’s absurd American life coach character Chris John Jackson doing a marathon tour of 26 London venues in 26 days. As well as traditional theatre spaces such as the BAC, The Gate and Soho Theatre, Jackson will be spelling out his message in more unusual venues including a cabaret barge on the Thames, under the West Way and in the living room of a lucky competition winner (for details of how to enter, visit www.jacksons-way.com).

Here Adamsdale introduces us to his alter-ego and explains why doing a tour of just one city “doesn’t really make sense”.


Tell us about Jackson

His theories are all about embracing futility; finding very futile things to do and then doing them. So, for example, he talks about moving sand from one beach to another. You have to keep doing it until it’s just too much to take; that’s really admirable in his opinion. There’s two sides to him: one is a megalomaniac attention seeker who wants to get as many people in the room as possible; and the other is this loner, this weird guy. His position is untenable basically, but that’s what’s interesting.

How did the character first come about?

I was doing a corporate video, staying at this hotel. That night I was watching late-night TV and Anthony Robbins, the life coach, was sitting outside a Malibu mansion and talking; you didn’t need to hear what he was saying exactly but it somehow seemed very persuasive. It was just the music of it and he was there looking healthy and there was this number flashing in the corner telling you where you could send your money and be like him.

Around that time, some university friends and I set up a cabaret night above a pub and I wanted to do something but I didn’t really know what it was and the corporate video, Robbins, being away in the middle of nowhere doing this TV thing…I had these ideas percolating about life coaches and pointlessness and I thought it would be funny to take this polystyrene cup that I’d been drinking coffee out of to the pub that I was performing in that night to explain the story of that cup to the audience. So I was being Robbins with a cup, saying stuff. And it was just a five-minute thing, but something about those ingredients bounced off each other in an interesting way. But there were lots of other things that fed into it and that’s what’s kept it interesting for me really, never knowing where it’s come from or where it’s heading.

You toured Jackson’s Way after winning the Perrier – why bring the show back now?

My producer suggested we could do a tour of London and that struck me as an interesting idea because it’s very in character for Jackson. That’s the sort of thing he would applaud: it’s essentially an absurd idea but it’s also really a bold idea. But when you actually look at the details it may not be as clever as all that.

How do you define the show? Is it comedy or theatre?

I prefer not to call it anything, just to do it. I think that as an audience member that would make me interested to go and see it. I think it has elements of stand-up, but then it’s definitely a conceit, so in that way it’s more of a theatre show. You’re casting the audience in a certain role, as the attendees of his seminar.

Is performing the show in a different London venue every night a more intense experience than, say, a national tour?

It’s probably going to seem a bit weird just going to different venues in London but that’s kind of interesting. That’s why I liked the idea: because I hadn’t really heard of that. There’s a really good reason why I hadn’t heard of it because it doesn’t really make sense. Jackson would think that this was great because he can get to more people if he moves around the city. Then he realises that actually, no, the reason you stay in one place and get audiences to come to you is that in cities it’s quite difficult to get information around. So actually, in effect, what he’ll probably be doing – what I’ll probably be doing – is chasing people around.

How did you go about choosing the 26 venues?

I was keen for the venues to be far apart geographically, but for them also to be different sorts of places. The mainstay is fringe theatres but then there’s the odd more ritzy theatre. What I was hoping for was a few places that were more found spaces, or not really spaces at all. There’s one under the West Way flyover and one in this funny space under Waterloo and I thought hopefully the tour would gain some type of momentum and people would want to come and see the show in different spaces.

Do you have a favourite venue out of the ones you’re playing on the tour?

The one under the West Way is going to be funny whatever happens because probably only five people will show up and it’ll be really cold. In Jackson’s head it’s a kind of massive Woodstock type event.

And I’m really looking forward to doing the BAC because that’s where I started developing the show officially; they commissioned it. I’m really attached to the BAC because I’ve worked a lot there over the last 10 years. And that’s the last one, so kind of the end of the marathon. I’ve got a van with my face on the side – Jackson carries around a lot of stuff with him, like some kind of penance – so we’ll be driving around in that. I was thinking we could wrap the van up in foil, the way that marathon runners do, when we drive into the BAC. There will have to be a .2 as well, a marathon’s 26.2 miles, so there will be a little .2 event afterwards for those that want to be there...


The 'London Jacksathon', which sees Jackson's Way play 26 venues in as many days starts on 5 January at The Gate Theatre and tours London venues until 30 January 2011, concluding at the BAC.