Elsewhere at the Edinburgh fringe, Rose Matafeo uses romcoms as a lens to view the development of her personality. For 2016 best newcomer nominee Jayde Adams, another movie genre is better suited to the job. She begins the show in dungarees, sat on a bench, struggling to open a box of chocolates. Forrest Gump is a misfit whose isolation is rendered glorious in the Tom Hanks movie; the same goes for Edward Scissorhands and the Phantom of the Opera. So why did Adams’ loneliness never feel romantic? Her new show, Jayded, recaps a lifetime of feeling unloved and at odds with the world, and her recent self-willed transformation.
From a performer whose force of personality is her USP, the show is machine-tooled to engineer supportive whoops from the crowd. As for laughs? Well, there are plenty, generated more by Adams’ outrageous behaviour (her mannerisms, her vocal tics, her antics onstage) than by joke-writing flair. She provides, in short, entertaining company, as she dragoons an audience member onstage to undertake a “best-friend test”, or struggles to practise tai chi while being for ever interrupted by a beeping phone.
At points, as she raps a defiant lyric about the schoolfriends who dissed her, or laments the death of her childhood cat, I marvelled that 32-year-old Adams should still feel the need to vent all this stuff. But this is more, she tells us, than adolescent angst: she remained friendless throughout her 20s, and makes that wound seem fresh with a melodramatic tableau of herself as Scissorhands or a roof-raising performance (cue fan-assisted wind effects) of the male and female parts in Phantom’s title song.
It may be familiar terrain, but I liked Adams’ portrait of herself as reduced by smartphone technology to a Gollum of digital neediness. That’s before she meets new BFF Babs, in whose friendship she finds a route out of solitude. The final third is all bumbling intimacies and (seemingly) real tears, as the show resolves into a hymn to everyone who’s damaged, who’s struggled to find acceptance. It is, in the end, a classic narrative of individual self-realisation against the odds, more interesting in the idiosyncratic detail than the familiar sweep. But Adams is a candid and charismatic performer for whom, with more shows like this, friends shouldn’t be hard to come by.