Bring Me The Head Of Adam Riches in London

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Shooting Stars might have been axed, but the anarchic spirit of its preposterously surreal end games has been preserved – and supercharged – by the performance powerhouse that is Adam Riches.

The barnstorming show that won him the Edinburgh Comedy Award last summer arrives in London’s Soho Theatre for an impressive five-week run, giving the capital’s crowds plenty of opportunity to be roped into his inventively bizarre set pieces. For this is audience participation as an extreme sport.

Resistance is futile as one thing his deranged characters all have in common is their domineering manner. If he wants you on stage; you will be on stage.

But he won’t subject any of his victims to any humiliation greater than he will endure himself, which keeps the atmosphere playful, rather than intimidating, despite the intensity of the performance.

To describe the scenarios he engineers too explicitly would be to rob them of their potency, but swingball sets, a rubber dinghy, skateboards, a smoke machine and water pistols are all employed to stupidly funny effect.

In these boisterous exploits he’s aided by two deadpan, put-upon sidekicks, whose occasional corpsing adds to the spirit of spontaneity. The show is scripted – there are more than enough sparkling lines to prove that – but around the framework of unfolding madness, there is plenty of room for Riches’s well-honed adlibbing, which accommodates anything the substantial audience participation can throw at him.

The show is broken up into scenes from various characters – although that might suggest a versatility that’s not really present. They are all unhinged, macho power-freaks, barking out orders to ensure their twisted bidding is done… although sometimes they have a (wandering) foreign accent or a convenient disability to differentiate them. The arrogant Daniel Day Lewis gives an acting masterclass; while the predatory Pedro teaches the ancient art of swing-a-ball, whether or not you want to learn it.

Yet Riches has a charm and charisma beneath the bombast that encourages people to play along, not to mention the well-practised skills to tread lightly along the line between chaos and purpose. For all the stupidity that emerges, there is always a firm, if misplaced, internal logic driving it – while his fearlessness brings an added portion of frisson.

This is a show of high jinks, expertly executed, that’s guaranteed to have you laughing… even if any subsequent attempt to explain exactly why is likely to be greeted by puzzled faces. ‘He did what…’?

Review date: 16 Feb 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

What do you think?

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.