Award-winning disabled artist Jez Colborne has always loved the idea of visiting America. He is enamoured with everything from the size of the place, the food, the culture and the patriotism. On The Verge follows this enigmatic man across America through Route 66 and beyond, in search of the meaning behind the 'American Dream.'
Colborne's journey is revisited via Jonathan Bentley's stunning film footage which captures the sheer variety of the different states from the openness of New York and the sweet shop appeal of Las Vegas. Bentley captures Colborne's child-like expressions as he lives out his dream and the effect here is very poignant.
Alongside the film footage, Colborne performs songs like "Route 66", "Born To Be Wild" and several self-penned tracks. This adds a personal touch and again shows the audience how this performer's life has been enhanced through his long journey across the U.S.
The narrative as it stands though is quite confused. Topics covered include how America's views on disability have changed over time, what being American means to those that live there, how Colborne reacts to America and vice versa and how the country allows people from all walks of life to survive together. The main problem though is that with a running time of only one hour, each narrative strand is touched upon rather than explored.
The dazzling array of interviewees we see have such interesting tales to tell that you long to hear more of their stories. You also want to see what each individual makes of Colborne as he approaches them.
You do find out some interesting things about Colborne's condition, Williams Syndrome. One common feature of the condition is being overly friendly. Our storyteller jokes that this was not a problem in free America compared with stuffy Britain.
Mike Kenny's writing is quite naïve in its approach as much of the detail about America is already common knowledge. Tim Wheeler's direction is somewhat muddled so that, at points the audience are left wanting more, and at others we want less - namely the stilted scenes involving burgers, cigarettes and cups of coffee. These 'real time' segments slow the pace too much.
This is an interesting and informative piece of theatre. But it would work much better as a documentary film exploring America's differing attitudes through Colborne's hungry eyes.
- Glenn Meads (reviewed at the Contact Theatre, Manchester)