FRINGE 2018: Why you need to see... Jamali Maddix
Who: Jamali Maddix
What: Jamali Maddix: Vape Lord
When Jamali Maddix was 24 he made a decision that would change his life forever and place him in real danger, for it was then that he decided to go and hang out with Neo-Nazi’s in the name of entertainment. Across six episodes of Hate Thy Neighbour he got to know extremists from around the world: Stockholm’s Nordic Youth, white power militants in Ukraine, Hitler-lovers in Pennsylvania, black Israelites in Harlem.
During one infamous scene, a man dressed in what can only be described as a swastika tank-top engages him – bizarrely - in a conversation about hip-hop: “I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the rapper DMX,” he says. “He’s actually a reverend. His sermons are awesome. He brings tears to my eyes. We love DMX.”
It’s around this sort of confused narrative that Maddix commands his tiny stage as he riffs on racism's microscope and his sense of ennui with people who can’t see past the colour of a man’s skin. The audience is hopeful, yet Maddix is hopeless. Not in his act, which is strong, more in his outlook on life.
He occasionally lifts the edge of the rug to let us glimpse his mental health battles but leaves the depths of them to our imagination. It’s a tool he uses successfully throughout the hour. You soon discover that the power of the mind – and specifically his mind - can take you to some dark places.
He is a big man with a big voice, but it’s in these moments he seems most vulnerable. He changes tack to discuss whether he could be radicalised, adding that he feels he’d be the perfect target for Islamic State’s recruitment: the themes of depression, disillusionment and a sense of ‘what’s the point’ in his life pervade.
It’s then that he takes a small towel from his back pocket and dabs the sweat from his forehead and around the bottom of his beard. His long, thick beard. And you sense in the mainly white crowd that more than a handful are wondering where this is going. He couldn’t……could he? When he gently reveals he’s Buddhist not Muslim that handful are assuaged. Subtly though he’s made a point.
He’s not afraid to be controversial either. Towards the end of the show he reasons that the #MeToo movement has usurped race in the pecking order of discrimination. That 200 years of oppression has been forgotten in a flash because Harvey Weinstein was outed as a rapist. It’s experimental social commentary and his bombastic style makes you at least consider his point, even if you don’t fully acknowledge it.
What’s easier to acknowledge is that Maddix is just a very funny, yet uncomfortably troubled man.
You can buy tickets for Vape Lord here.