Bring Me the Head of Adam Riches, Soho Theatre, London

Prepare to grab your sides...but remember to duck
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The Independent Culture

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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