Riches lives up to his name with comedy prize

A show of 'barely controlled chaos' wins the £10,000 award – and guaranteed fame – for Adam Riches at the Edinburgh Festival

Veronica Lee
Wednesday 26 October 2011 17:00
Adam Riches's anarchic comedy show played to sellout audiences
Adam Riches's anarchic comedy show played to sellout audiences

Comic Adam Riches was once "brought down by friendly bacteria" at the Edinburgh Fringe when he slipped on some yogurt and broke his leg. But yesterday his energetic style earned him a more welcome souvenir – the £10,000 prize for the festival's best comedy show.

The 38-year-old won a Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award for Bring Me the Head of Adam Riches, an anarchic character show that has played to full houses at Pleasance Courtyard. The show, one of 505 eligible for the prize, has received four- and five-star reviews. Nica Burns, producer of the awards, said Riches was "utterly original, extremely funny and a huge talent. He will no doubt be seen on your television screens in the near future."

A University of Salford drama graduate who lives in Kew in west London, Riches has a background in theatre and is also a playwright. He has performed at the Fringe on five occasions, and his energetic, physical style has led to the occasional setback.

It was during his 2008 show, about a theatrical agent who is obsessed with fitness and Yakult, that Riches slipped on the yogurt and broke his leg. But despite undergoing an operation, he returned to the stage three days later because, he said yesterday, "I couldn't afford to lose any more money. I was skint."

Despite the mishap, Riches's 2011 show also has audience participation and madcap physicality, and in one section, where Riches relentlessly guys Daniel Day-Lewis – "the most successful actor to appear in nobody's favourite film" – he is picked up and thrown by three members of the audience. But the performer dismissed any concerns about his safety. "I thought, after breaking my leg, what's the worst that can happen?" he said.

"The show takes a huge amount of concentration to perform every day, but winning this makes it worthwhile. I've played the Fringe before when nobody came or people walked out of my shows, so it's nice that people have responded to it."

The judges said the comic's original mix of characters, which include Pedro the swingball star, "ups the visual ante and creates a cavalcade of barely controlled chaos".

The newcomer award went to Humphrey Ker, 28, for Dymock Watson: Nazi Smasher!, a story of derring-do loosely based on the exploits of his grandfather, a naval commander and intelligence officer who in the Second World War was parachuted behind enemy lines in Romania to destroy a German supply route.

After he was presented with his £5,000 award by 2002 nominee Omid Djalili and last year's winner, Russell Kane, the comic revealed that his other grandfather, Dick Ker, had an equally interesting war and that his story may even form the basis of next year's show.

The special panel prize went to The Wrestling, a one-off show in which 20 comedians took part in wrestling bouts with eight professional wrestlers. The judges described it as "the most outrageous night the Pleasance has ever seen". It was the brainchild of Max Olesker, formerly the youngest pro wrestler in the UK, and Ivan Gonzalez of the sketch duo Max and Ivan.

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