There was a time when it was common to visit a mental asylum in the same way as one might go to a museum: as a form of entertainment. Adam Riches’ show brings this to mind; except, in his world, the lunatics are firmly in control. This show takes the form of a journey into Riches’ head, a sometimes puerile, always entertaining place with an air of the grotesque.
Bring Me the Head manages to avoid the pitfalls of the ‘sketch-show’ format , in that Riches does not try to pack as many sketches as possible into a limited time frame. He is evidently confident enough in his own writing to maintain a consistent level of laughs while animating one character without the need to switch roles every few minutes. Riches is an impressively energetic (and palpably sweaty) performer and many of his routines are physically taxing, but there’s never a sense that he’s trying too hard. He allows some of his sketches to sprawl, but never in a self-indulgent way. Rather, this rambling, elongated quality seems in keeping with the eccentricities of his strange characters: the horny swing-ball expert with the abusive father; the blind, wheelchair-bound Mastermind champion; the actor, Daniel Day Lewis. Given Riches’ talent for character-based comedy, it is an injustice that he’s not had more mainstream success.
The show is also notable for its level of spontaneity, generated from audience participation, which sets Riches apart from other, more meticulously scripted sketch comedians. Indeed, because the show relies so heavily on the audience entering into the spirit of things, there is a far greater margin for error. It is to Riches’ credit that he wins them over almost instantaneously, and manages to make them do bizarre things with surprisingly little coercion; things like administering an ‘anal douche’ with a water-gun to an actor dressed as a lizard, as a reward for winning a skateboard race, to use just one of many memorable examples. There was a certain joyous bewilderment to the whole affair. The audience seemed hugely entertained throughout, not least because those who were selected to participate were, unusually, given room to be funny in their own right.
Riches has no particular ‘message’, nor does he have a political axe to grind, so those who prefer their comedy delivered from the soapbox might well find him inconsequential. However, it would be incredibly hard, perhaps even impossible, to watch this show and not be entertained by the delightful insanity of the whole venture.