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Adam Riches enjoys one-man-on-the-road experience

By Margaret Chrystall

THE man who is praised for “unique, off the wall and downright hilarious” comedy is watching his tortoise climb a stack of books as he talks about his offbeat career on the phone.

You might have seen Adam Riches appearing as actor Sean Bean on Channel 4’s 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown or maybe spotted him in BBC comedy The Detectorists – or maybe you’ve seen the YouTube clips from one of his many Edinburgh Festival shows where he takes audience participation to new levels.

He is about to set off for the latest stage of his first-ever national tour which brings him to Inverness on Friday.

But first he is explaining how his rescue tortoise called Dr Alison Parker loves to climb and how he has already written a show about here that has appeared at Edinburgh Fetival a few years ago.

Last year Adam did three shows at the festival which seems rather a lot.

Edinburgh is where in 2011 he won the Fosters Award which has kickstarted many a stand up career.

And yes, he could have gone that route, starting with a national tour that would take his brand of comedy everywhere – but Adam said no.

“It was never the plan to be a comedian I only ever wanted to write and act. At the time a tour was offered and every year since, but I kept creating other work.”

But recently he decided to try touring and does it on his own, with books and usually on trains and he is enjoying it and finding he is learning a lot, he says.

“It is just me, no support act, I do both halves of the show.

“The technical guy is the venue’s own, so I just have a few hours with them to get them up to speed and then it is just – run out onstage and do what I do.

“There is a lovely immediacy to it – I am here for one night and what I’ve got is what I’ve got and who I’ve got in the room is who I’ve got.

“There is a lot of audience participation in the show so everything about the show feels like it’s got a real one-night-only, it’s-now-or-never discipline about it.

“I don’t worry about anything else that is going on. I am purely there to do that one night, that one and a half hour show and make it as good as I can do it – and then I get on the train and leave.

“I have found that a lot more freeing than doing runs of shows in London or abroad where you are doing a lot of shows in one place.”

But before this tour, there were the three shows at once at the Edinburgh Festival last year – why?

“I had a period where if I’m honest I had lost a bit of that lustre for – not just the work, it was life things that come along too.

“And I wanted to find out if I had lost a love of what I wanted to do for a living or whether I was just in a bit of a funk and needed to shake myself out of it.

“So I thought what better way to do that than to throw everything you’d got into shows.

“I wanted that – if I was to find out that ‘It wasn’t for me’ any more – I’d do it in Edinburgh, a place where it had ‘become for me’.”

Adam's shows always feature audience participation. Picture: Idil Sukan
Adam's shows always feature audience participation. Picture: Idil Sukan

His fertile imagination comes across as he describes the three shows – Coach Coach is a pastiche of an American sports movie, the audience playing an actual game. Adam is now reworking it for the West End. The second was a swashbuckling drama with mannequins and in the third he played a pick-up artist trying to woo a female member of the audience.

“I am this single character in a café – with the audience – and I’m playing an extremely modern pick-up artist.

“ He is there to chide all the audience members about where they are going wrong in life, all the while trying to gain acceptance with all the women in there and particularly with one.

“That was a really great show and with the contemporary references going on nowadays with men and women, it was a very timely show.

“All three shows were well-received and helped me stretch different muscles."

So did it kickstart his enthusiasm again?

“You are doing as much work as you can, in a place that you love, where people enjoy coming to see you.

“And if you don’t like it after that then you are probably best to go and open up that tortoise farm!

“Fortunately for me, I did fall in love with it again, I really enjoyed doing the three shows and got renewed vigour, just in time for the tour!”

Adam is also challenging himself in a new way.

“The plan has always been that over the last six months of the year I will begin trying to turn the Coach Coach show into a big West End production and give that a go and have a new challenge.

“I need to break my rhythm and pattern of writing smaller-scale shows to take to venues.

“And I want to see whether the humour and the ideas will just upscale to create a really lovely fun night for audiences on a bigger canvas.

“I am going to hole myself away – which is another great point about the tour, I have been looking at the places I have visited for places to go back to and where I can just write.

“To find an Air B&B for a month and just visit – and I’m looking forward to checking out Inverness and Aberdeen in that regard.

“I know Glasgow well, I used to live there.

“I had a broad Glaswegian accent when I was a child.

“My mum is Scottish and my dad used to run the Berni Inn in the middle of the city and I was at nursery school there.

“We were up there till I was about five years old when we came down to London.

“But on the tour I play the actor Gerard Butler, so I wheel that out at the beginning of one of the halves.

“I have played him in Edinburgh before and I got away with it, I think.

“So I’m hoping when I get up to Inverness they will give me a fair go with the accent!”

Adam Riches brings The Adam Riches Experience to Eden Court tonight (Friday, May 31).

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