While Riches’ audiences are usually treated – one might say subjected, if you’re on the front row - to an abundance of audience participation, this year’s iteration features only one such instance. Having seen Riches involve several mortified members of the public in his act in previous shows, I was expecting him to unleash a range of madcap characters to facilitate these interactions, which tended to be the funniest part of his immersive comedy performances. It was the sheer unpredictability of these encounters which made each and every time you saw Riches unique.
This is an immersive comedic experience like no other; wonderfully self-referential and completely absorbing.
In this sense, I was initially disappointed that Riches stuck to playing just one character for the duration of the show. However, I was delighted with the prospect of an hour-long narrative showcasing the fantastic Coach Eric Coach, an embittered, chewing gum-addicted high school sports coach hellbent on his team – The Centaurs – beating their rivals, the Lizards in a winner-takes-all game of Volfsball in the Yakult Varsity Cup (what else?) This elaborate character-comedy parodies the classic narrative arc of every 80s teen movie; there is even a love interest (David Elms), who shines as a teen wolf.
Repeating “Coach, Coach, Coach” to himself with unbridled confidence, Riches’ portrayal of Coach Coach is reminiscent of Ben Stiller in Dodgeball and Will Ferrell in Old School. Crucially, his supporting cast are also phenomenal; Coach Coach’s team the Centaurs are a bunch of underdog misfits, featuring the pitiably sweet Memphis Alabaster with two left hands, while the Lizards’ sinister ensemble is led by Swish Swisherstein, a lascivious and suspiciously old looking high-school student with a penchant for screeching his own name. Stevie Martin and Liz Smith of sketch group Massive Dad deserve special mention for their hilarious performances as Mrs Coach and Missy Coach.
The electrifying and infectiously charismatic Riches is consistent in his ability to make his audience feel like they are part of a unique show, which is not untrue; between his off-the-cuff wit and natural gift to make every member of the audience tremble in anticipation of being picked on, Riches has delivered a hilariously exuberant performance. This is an immersive comedic experience like no other; wonderfully self-referential and completely absorbing.