By the end of Adam Riches’s new show the room looks like a scene from a horror movie. There’s a pile of junk at the back of the stage: an upturned table, an electric shaver, office chairs, bead curtains, monks’ habits and some blood-stained sheets. The journey to this heap of mess, though, is nothing to be scared of. The 2011 Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award winner – on his first return to the Fringe since bagging the gong – has created another triumph of cunningly crafted, high-energy character comedy that’s big on laughs.
We open with a voiceover announcing that the part of Adam Riches is to be played by Sean Bean. Cue Riches in full-armoured get up, spouting a dodgy Sheffield accent and slaughtering his fans. It’s Riches in his element: being outrageously silly and bombastic. But it’s when he begins his trademark audience participation that the show takes an infectiously funny turn. Not many performers could coerce punters into strumming their neighbour’s hair like a harp, but Riches does simply with the command ‘get in his groin!’
Following the ‘gravel-sweating’ British actor we’re introduced to an unconventional mixologist, a Deep South tattoo artist, a morose Ryan Gosling and his less-than-coy mother. Short, throwaway characters make for a snappy change of pace, but it’s Riches’s longer set pieces that make the audience howl. In these, his semi-willing volunteers have a chance to suss out the character, get on board with the concept and allow themselves be persuaded. By the time we meet the Yakult-guzzling Victor Legit – a regular Riches character since 2006 – punters are aware that, whatever they might be asked to do, Riches will always come out worse. And he does.
The Radio 4 star knows what works, and has stayed slightly within his comfort zone here. Sean Bean is remarkably similar to Riches’s Daniel Day-Lewis parody from his award-winning show, and many characters follow similar formulas. But when his comfort zone is this funny, you can hardly blame him. ‘Adam of the Riches’ is at the Pleasance Dome, 9.45pm