Bring Me the Head of Adam Riches, Soho Theatre, London
Prepare to grab your sides...but remember to duck
Sunday 19 February 2012
Back in 2005, Laura Solon took the Perrier Award with a cast of acutely observed personalities exploding with monologic pathos.
Last year, character comedy came to the fore once again – but Adam Riches' Edinburgh Fringe-winning show, reprised now at London's Soho Theatre for a five-week run, is a very different beast.
Where Solon was quietly unhinged, Riches is raucously so, his 60-minute set a sweep-you-off-your-feet melange of controlled chaos. It could so easily get out of hand – but it is testament to Riches' stagecraft and discipline that it never does.
Although there is the occasional verbal zinger – playing a booming Daniel Day-Lewis, the comic describes himself as "the most successful actor to appear in nobody's favourite film" – Bring Me the Head was never going to win prizes for clever wordplay. Rather, the hi-jinks is driven by a combined sense of riotous fun and violent dread.
The dread comes in the audience participation: if you're picked to be involved, there's no squirming out of it. And it arrives in a manner that at times evokes a game show (my colleague and I ended up in a surreal skateboard race that was somehow more exhilarating than humiliating); and at others, the best sort of improvisation, as those dragged on stage are either willed on in their antics by Riches' irresistible personality, or tamed by a good-natured putdown if they are a little full of themselves.
At no point is anyone safe – quite literally so during a game of extreme Swing- ball. It is not so much the players who are in danger – although Riches does advise that "the winner is whoever arrives in Accident & Emergency second" – but those watching. My tip if you're near the action: duck and cover.
A final despotic, disabled character who demands to be watered "like starlings are" – mouth dripping to mouth – adds a queasy element that is as barkingly funny as it is barking mad.
Knockabout comedy, then, and in a demented manner, aided by the outlandish machismo of a series of well thought-through characters.
It might not quite engage the intellect, but it certainly engages the funny bone – rarely can I remember laughing quite so hard throughout an hour's set.
To 17 Mar (020-7478 0100)
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