Edinburgh Fringe Review: Adam Riches is Coach Coach, Pleasance Dome

Adam Riches

***

Legend has it that if you are putting on a play in Edinburgh and you want to shift tickets you list it in the Comedy section rather than Theatre. That is surely the only reason that Adam Riches’ new PLAY (geddit?) is listed under Comedy. I guess, in fairness, Riches has a comedy following so they will want to know about his latest project. The only trouble is that they will be the ones disappointed by the PLAY (alright?), which is great as a PLAY (am I making myself clear?) but not anywhere as much fun as Riches’ past comedy shows.

Coach Coach sets out to be the “greatest frickin' sports movie you ever done saw, live on stage!” and as such it bases itself around the conventions of the trad sports movie. Eric Coach (Riches) is the veteran baseball-capped trainer looking for one last redemptive win at Volfsball (a bit like basketball) but haunted by his past and addicted to gum. Can his bunch of losers finally make him proud? Will the addition of a teenager who turns into a wolf when aroused help?

Because this has a conventional storyline you might be able to guess the ending, but this is the twist. A real volfsball game takes place on the stage and the result could go either way, so nobody actually knows how the PLAY (I’ve told you already) will end.

It’s all good fun with a strong cast that includes David Elms, Richard Gadd and Ben Target. What is sorely missing is the full-throttle immersive rollercoaster excitement of Riches’ previous shows. Every time there is a hint of this – with Riches and various other members breaking the fourth wall – these are the truly thrilling moments for Riches’ regular fans. A reference to Yakult also got a laugh from those in the know. Newbies will certainly enjoy the whole thing, but they don’t know what they are missing.

Maybe Riches feels that his live comedy approach has run its course. He has certainly been moving towards acting in recent years, appearing in a number of conventional stage productions. Coach Coach is a hoot but for his old fans it lacks the hide-under-your-seat thrill of wondering if you are going to be dragged into the limelight at any moment and have Yakult rubbed into your chest. A few months ago Riches told me "All that stuff I normally do, that's acting too you know." Fair enough, but that stuff is what I was hoping for with Coach Coach. Despite the live unpredictability of the volfsball game, this feels very much like Riches PLAYing it safe.

Until Aug 30, tickets here.

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