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Adam Hills: Mess Around
Published on Monday, 06 August 2012
4

4 stars

Assembly Hall (venue website)
Comedy
2-16, 19 Aug, 7:40pm-8:40pm; 17-18 Aug, 7:40pm-8:40pm, 11:59pm-12:59am
Reviewed by Martin Lennon

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

On the opening day of the Fringe, Adam Hills wrote a piece on his blog responding to the debate – kicked off, predictably, by Stewart Lee – about the Fringe becoming too corporate. He spoke about the true spirit of Edinburgh and why it’s such a special festival.  And with Mess Around, he backs these words up with sensational action that embodies what makes the Fringe unpredictable, innovative and most of all unique.

He claims to be approaching each show with no planned structure, and although he clearly has material he is also there to simply “mess around”.   Interaction and banter with the audience makes up about 80 per cent of this show, with the remaining twenty percent dedicated to more traditional stand-up routines. Hills specifically wanted to address the fact that he finds normal, everyday people more interesting than celebrities, a fascination which becomes clear in abundance when he makes latecomers to the room the centre of his show. 

His ability to connect with the crowd is not a strength, but a superpower. The diversity of the Edinburgh audience did help him, but it is how he responds to their eccentric behaviour that sets him apart. Half way through the show one young Scot glided past him “busting” for the toilet, and Hills made the best of the situation whereas maybe other comedians would be outraged. It was also the absurd reactions he was able to draw from the crowd that were special. He asked a heavy metal fan with a sparkling AC-DC sign on his shirt to act like he was having a baby. What transpired was a performance so good it should have its own show at the Fringe.

Fans of his shouldn’t go in expecting a lot of new material, and it was a little disappointing that he didn't dedicate more time to this. When he did revert back to storytelling about his travels in Canada and Amsterdam he still managed to keep the laughs flowing. At times I felt that he was trying to charm the locals a bit too much, attempting a Scottish accent and drinking Irn Bru. These were easy jokes, and his Scottish accent especially was at times irritating – as he said, it sounded like “Shrek shagging Billy Connolly”.

But when he comes back to the crowd, it’s all forgiven.  Any comedian can base their show around audience participation, but few can make it an art form like Adam Hills.  It’s easy to see why Hills has been so successful in his adventures at the fringe for the last fifteen years. It is clear he has a passion for the people who attend his shows and I doubt many shows will match the energy and surreal scenarios he can create.

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