Have you ever googled yourself? Asks Adam Welsh, the protagonist, chief story-teller and subject of There but for the grace of God (go I) which is currently playing a 3-day residency in The Soho Theatre.
As you enter the performance space, Adam Welsh is sitting playing computer games on a big screen, the soundtrack is a computerised version of Alan Jackson’s ‘what a friend we have in Jesus’. Adam continues to play his game with a childlike enthusiasm as the soundtrack is repeated over and over again. Adam gets up to play, childlike in essence, I believe I am watching an innocent child.
Adam then breaks the fourth wall and addresses his audience, he says something along the lines of, have you ever googled yourself and had google re-direct you to someone else, the person google believes you to be?
In the case of Adam Welsh, this is Adam Walsh. It is this idea of self, belonging and identity that provides a loose framework for Adam Welsh’s 70-minute, part autobiographical, part biographical production.
For me, the show is a whirlwind, a piece of theatre that takes its audience on a journey of emotions. I can honestly say I felt laughter, joy, happiness, fear, sadness and even had a tear in my eye by the end of the show. Quite an achievement for a one-man show in the small upstairs space of The Soho Theatre.
What is wonderful about this production is that Adam has succeeded in presenting a thought-provoking piece of theatre, a piece which explores what it is to be human and to feel loved. What it means to be a child, to be a brother, to be a teenager to be an adult and to be a parent.
The piece is executed through a variety of theatrical styles and media, ensuring that Adam’s audience’s brains are active throughout the show. The piece is certainly not naturalistic in performance style; however, it is very accessible and easy to follow both of the Adams’ trajectories.
The piece explores several themes; love and loss, age and youth, parent and child, truth and verisimilitude, and is delivered through a variety of storytelling methods including film, Lego puppetry, acapella, computer gaming, poetry, graphics projected on to a string curtain, physical performance, verbatim theatre and monologues.
For most of the production, Adam is talking directly to the audience, he is aware of us, interacts with us and asks questions of us. His direct to audience narrative is the constant through-line of the piece. In between his direct to audience addresses, Adam then performs segments via different performance technique. This adds extra layers to the narrative. For example, watching a scene from Adam Walsh’s life being enacted in Lego begs the question of seriousness, but also gives a childlike gloss to that part of the story.
Adam’s script and his truth, his memories and those of his parents are merged and blurred with the true-life story of Adam Walsh, the American child who went missing in Florida in 1981 who made national and international news and was eventually dramatized for TV broadcast. This narrative produces a rather haunting insight that plays out in front of us.
Adam Welsh is a tremendously talented performer and he has full command of his audience from the moment they enter the room. He guides us seamlessly through his mind’s eye – providing access to the deepest and darkest memories from his childhood. As we reach the end of the production It feels like I am watching a psychotic break in 3D, it’s as if Adam’s mind is on over-drive, he is confusing memories, fact and fiction, Adam Walsh and Adam Welsh. Adam performs a formidable piece of physical theatre that is hugely unsettling to watch and hugely gratifying at the same time.
This is a great piece of theatre to really spark your mind, if you get a chance see it whilst you can.
Review by Faye Stockley
In 1983, Adam Walsh went missing from a Hollywood shopping mall and quickly became the most famous missing child in American history. In 2017, a man called Adam Welsh googled himself and found Adam Walsh. This incident prompted him to write an intriguing semi-autobiographical debut solo show There but for the grace of God (go I) which runs for a limited number of performances this August.
This honest and humane production highlights the vulnerability of children and questions how any of us really survive childhood. Through conversation, live re-enactment, song, home videos, poetry and even Lego, Adam Welsh reflects on the care parents have for their children, but how they can’t always help them. It is a meditation on how tragedy can render the world meaningful, an investigation into not being dead, yet.
There but for the grace of God (go I) playfully shifts from initial light-hearted irritation to expose the investigation into Adam Walsh’s disappearance and the connections between this child and a young actor searching for meaning in obscurity, unexpectedly forced to examine his own life.
There but for the Grace of God (go I)
Performance Dates Monday 6th – Wednesday 8th August 2018, 7pm
Running time 1 hour 10 minutes
Twitter @GraceofGodProd, @SohoTheatre, #GraceofGodProd
Age recommendation 16 +
Writer/Performer Adam Welsh
Associate Director Timothy Trimingham Lee
Producer Ellen Waghorn
Designer Susannah Henry
Lighting Designer Neill Brinkworth
Sound Designer Kevin Gleeson
Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE