Review: Adam Riches, Soho Theatre

Adam Riches

Editor's note: this is a review of Riches' performance at the Edinburgh Festival in August. He is doing the same show at the Soho Theatre until January 3. Tickets and dates here.

Some winners of the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award grab fame with both hands. Adam Riches seems to be taking a more circuitous route. Having won the prize in 2011 he has been tentative about his next steps. His most notable appearances have been on Radio 4 and recently in the BBC4 hit Detectorists.

And now he has returned this year to the live circuit with a brand new show. Well, Adam of the Riches features brand new material, but the format is almost a cut and paste of the best bits of his award-winning hour.

It is not entirely original then to seasoned Riches-watchers, but we can forgive that because it is riotously funny and contains some of the best audience participation you’ll see this side of Nick Helm and Dr Brown.

Riches kicks of as Sean Bean in full steely Sheffield accent and Game of Thrones clobber. It’s a bit of a slight return of his old Daniel Day Lewis routine, but the pretentious side of actors is a topic well worth mocking again and again and again. To get full value from the comedy when you see it – which I urge you to do – I won’t reveal exactly what goes on, but it involves some interaction with fans, some nifty chair work and a haircut.  

The Bean banter is a tough act to follow, but if you thought it was weird things get even weirder from here as Riches takes down Ryan Gosling, dons a couple of killer toothbrushes and in the kind of coup de theatre that we have come to expect from him, has a shower onstage with the aid of some volunteers.

While the script is undeniably funny, it’s the shameless fourth wall-demolishing that really makes this a night to remember. On the evening I was in there was an added frisson because his number one victim was visually impaired, something Riches was clearly not prepared for but handled brilliantly. His mock-brutish press ganging treads a very fine line that could so easily tip over into bullying, but always seems to get the non-professional lackeys onside.

It's a masterclass, not just in character-based sketch comedy, but in audience manipulation. Thank goodness Riches is not an insurance salesman. Go see. And sit in the front row to get your money’s worth. And possibly a bit wet too.

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