Review: Adam Riches is… ‘The Guy Who’, Crypt at VAULT Festival ★★☆☆☆

by Jim Keaveney

In a return to the show that ran at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019, Adam Riches play the guy you meet right after you come out of a long-term relationship; everything he does is deliberate in his attempt to snare an emotionally vulnerable partner. It doesn’t matter what her name is or what her interests are – he is the thing that matters. He reads ‘the physical copy’ of the Sunday Times because it’s the physical copy, and the most important impact of the Women’s Movement was the impact on him. He’s so politically correct he’s incorrect. The Riches point wants us to take on board is that this person exists, in reality, all around us; this person is in the room with us, they may even be us.

The show has its moments, particularly in the initial stages, and there a plenty of well-judged punchy one-liners but Richie stretches this sketch character beyond the point where there is enough substance to sustain a full show. Already coming in at under 40 minutes in length, it’s a skit that quickly feels worn – in part due to the audience participation Richie relies on, which in turn relies on an amount of buy-in that Richie struggles to garner from this evening’s audience. It is maybe a slight disservice, then, to fully judge the show on this performance – maybe with another audience it lands.

However, given that Riches is undertaking a balancing act where the cringe of the cringe comedy piece is based on the audience being both the subject and the viewer of the cringe, it’s hard to see how it’s possible to get both outcomes. In fact, this evening’s performance quickly becomes uncomfortable; when one female audience member is plucked from her seat to take part she tells Riches she would prefer not to lie across the lap of three male strangers he wants her to. She is eventually pressured into doing so despite repeated protestations – the pressuring goes on much too long. The character operates on blurred lines but where does the line between character and comic end?

Should I, or someone else, have interjected before she ended up in a place she didn’t want to be? Later, another woman is subjected to a grilling from Riches’ character as they sit on a raised stool in the middle of the audience. This time someone does object, standing to ask if this is the point we’re meant to stop the show. Riches takes the moment in his stride and continues, weaving the interjection into the show. It wasn’t apparently what he was after – ‘no one ever does that!’ he laughs, genuinely, at the end giving her a round of applause for her courage.

It’s a shame because Riches is clearly a clever comic who has gained significant praise and he is known for his audience participation. It’s difficult too because some shows require audience participation to work and not everyone is a willing volunteer; but isn’t ‘willing’ the keyword? ‘A what point does no mean no?’ is the question the show asks, although not in the way Riches intended.

Adam Riches is… ‘The Guy Who’ plays the Crypt at VAULT Festival again on 8 March.