Once Maisie Adam‘s debut show was announced it was difficult not to have a sense of anticipation, so instantly assured and relaxed did she appear as she swept to victory in the So You Think You’re Funny? final last year. Would she be able to translate the promise of her ten minutes to a full hour? As soon as she calmly saunters on to the intimate stage of the Gilded Balloon’s Wee Room she blasts away all doubts. She’s all confidence; both in her ability to command a room and in her material, and it’s entirely justified.
Adam may have relocated to the cool climes of Brighton, but this show is all about her Yorkshire roots, specifically her childhood in the small town of Pannal in West Yorkshire. If this was the opening chapter of a new superhero named Comedy Girl, then Vague would be the origin story. Familiarity with the region covering Leeds and Harrogate might ensure that maximum appreciation is gleaned from these early reminiscences, but there’s a universality to Adam’s storytelling that will have anyone from a small town laughing wryly along.
It’s when she introduces the subject of her epilepsy that the show’s narrative fully kicks into gear. From euphemistically-labelled ‘vague episodes’ to full on seizures, Adam’s show tells of her struggles to reconcile an erratic, unpredictable illness with the entirely predictable epicurean pursuits that generations of small-town youths have indulged. Every stage of her tale is told with wit, charm and sincerity, with moments of poignancy that never tip towards mawkishness.
Vague is a neatly-structured, consistently strong hour of no-frills stand-up that beautifully showcases Adam’s abundantly evident talent. She’s wisely not attempting to break new ground in her debut, but has followed the adage of ‘write what you know’, and has spliced the material on her condition with a cozy nostalgia for the youth she’s only recently left behind in a neat helix that feels like she’s displaying her very DNA on stage. It’s warm, gentle fare with a real emotional core. It isn’t brash or showy, but like Lauren Pattison‘s Lady Muck last year, it’s both a coming-of-age tale and a real statement of intent that may just draw awards attention through sheer craft and talent. If it leaves us rather impatient to see her take another leap and full realise this early promise, then that’s entirely a compliment.