Adam Riches is The Guy Who…, Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61) ****
Adam Riches is Coach Coach 2: Coach Harder, Pleasance Dome (Venue 23) ****
Adam Riches is The Lone Dueller, Pleasance Dome (Venue 23) ****
If the rest of the world is experiencing something of a testosterone shortage, it is because Adam Riches is using all of it in his three shows here in Edinburgh. Just having your shoulder touched by him as he glides around the room invading personal space in Adam Riches is The Guy Who is enough to start the growth of facial hair. Even on women. I can only imagine the effect on the middle-aged man in the front row of The Lone Dueller who was kissed more frequently and more forcefully than anyone ever has been in a single comedy hour. He appeared to like it. And so did his wife who was watching.
If Riches ever turns to the dark side then governments should tremble. Such a force of whatever artifice he creates is he that any audience would probably march to annex the Sudetenland if he grasped them by the shoulders, looked deep into their eyes and told them to.
His characters are all luxuriant in vocal tone and chestal hair, they swoop and stride, they are bold and they are dangerous. And ridiculously funny. In each of his three shows, there is a beautifully written core script.
The superbly witty detail of his writing is best enjoyed in Adam Riches is The Guy Who. The Guy Who, he tells us, you meet just after coming out of a long-term relationship. As he prowls between tables searching for his lady-prey, perfectly ridiculous words spurt out of him with an extravagance that sweeps all before it, even if none of it makes sense.
He is Sensei of the simile and The Guy Who uses up some of his best. Combine that with his ability to work off and with an audience and the fun develops into something that is in a class of its own. Trust exercises, swabbing, Snapchat, oversharing, quite a lot of touching and and empathy lactation are the stuff of The Guy Who. And every so often, in the midst of the hyperbole and and the parody, seemingly casually, a beautifully created razor-edged shard of satire finds its mark.
Riches’ other two shows leave his cleverly wrought scripts slightly more at the mercy of his audience, his technical crew and his cast of three comics, who together add a thrilling comic jeopardy to the mix. Ben Target particularly enjoys some off-piste moments and, to be fair, so do we. Stevie Martin is a superbly disciplined straightwoman, whether dying in childbirth, threatening to bring the world of Volfsball to its knees or offering a rather good James Mason impression as the original Lone Dueller, and Daniel Cook seems almost sane in the centre of the maelstroms of crazy that are Coach Coach 2 and The Lone Dueller.
Adam Riches is Coach Coach 2: Coach Harder, brings Volfsball back to the Queen Dome. And this time it’s international. For anyone who inexplicably missed the original Coach Coach (where were you?) we get a poignant flashback sequence explaining why everyone from that show is now dead, before we are up and away and playing Volfsball. Some of us literally. There is time travel, Volfsball as we know it is under threat from the Russians and there is something strange about the New Principal. Will Coach Coach pull it back for America ?
If love, honour and latent homosexuality are your thing, and you don’t mind the odd decapition (and some of the decapitations are very odd), then Riches’ third show – Adam Riches is The Lone Dueller – is for you. Yes, he knows the title doesn’t make sense. We get magic musical swords that summon Seal and a back story involving little sailor boys, a magic sword seller, an imaginary war with France and a powerful time-lapse montage. If “best use of a mannequin in a fight sequence prize” were a thing, Riches would win it. One of the most remarkable coups de théâtre you will see this month is the moment Riches makes a fire from a small boy. I was lucky to see the second two shows early on and some of the greatest comedy came from little mistakes. Pray for a late cue or a missing prop. Riches quick wit turns them to comedy gold.
It takes great writing and an awesomely powerful central performance to make characters as ridiculous as these three men last an hour. How marvellous for us all that Adam Riches supplies both.
• The Guy Who… until 26 August, 2:10pm. Coach Coach 2: Coach Harder until 27 August, 9:45pm. The Lone Dueller until 26 August, 9:45pm