Fringe Comedy Reviews: Dream Theatres

Giant Leap, Beau Zeaux and Adam Riches: Coach Coach. Brogues, stilettos and gutties. Swiss chard, frisée and iceberg. These items share a function (foot protection; decoration; comic theatre), but arrive via very different routes

Feature by Cara McNamara | 17 Aug 2015

Giant Leap [★★★☆] is the most traditional of the three, and it’s an interesting premise. A motley collection of strangers (including a drunken playwright, a Jewish comedian, an African-American secretary, and a US army colonel) are locked in an army bunker by the mysterious ‘Jay’. Gradually we realise that it’s 1969, and they’ve been brought together to dream up Armstrong’s killer line in the soon-to-be-faked moon landings. It smacks of Mad Men meets Columbo, but as a piece of dramatic irony it actually works, balancing stress and paranoia without over-egging it, even if some of the lines are somewhat unoriginal. The only consistent humour, however, is provided by Lewis Schaffer's neurotic east coast Jewish comedian – overall it fails on the belly laugh front. However, as an ensemble piece, it’s an enjoyable, engaging thing.

At the other end of the spectrum are The Beau Zeaux [★★★★☆], who improvise a new play every single night. Spurred by an audience member’s description of a room in their grandparent’s house (a bedroom in Wales), the five-strong cast then weaved a bittersweet tale of love, loss and parachutes in the Valleys. Should any actor falter, they would be cajoled through the sound system by compere Deborah Frances-White, giving the impression that Llareggub’s inhabitatants were being gently psychoanalysed by God... if God were an Australian woman. Naturally this group are all seasoned improvisors, and it'd be naive to think they can't draw upon their experience and skill when faced with each fresh scenario – indeed, there were plenty of opportunities for it all to go wrong... and it all went right. Marcus Brigstocke’s Sally Army girl was particularly sweet, but in all honesty, it was Brendan Murphy’s complete inability to maintain a Welsh accent that had the audience wailing with laughter. “I love to have butter with my mother and my brother,” indeed.

And then, in the yellow corner... Adam Riches: Coach Coach [★★★★★]. We have to admit a bias here. The Skinny is an absolute sucker for a sports underdog story. Stick on Mighty Ducks/Bad News Bears/Slap Shot, and we're a proper weeping mess. However, if you then throw in Teen Wolf, a kid with two actual left arms, and a completely made up sport (Volfball), I am pretty much the low-hanging fruit. Recovering gum addict Coach Coach (he’s on the 12-stick program), his humungously pregnant wife and his trailer trash daughter are cryingly funny together, whether they’re sticking to the script, ad-libbing, or taking the kind of risks with audience participation which convince us they must have had a cast-iron back-up plan. Between the lot of them, they hit the two comic theatre Hail Marys – a great little tale, with heart, soul, and constant laughter. Game, set and match, Riches.

Giant Leap, Pleasance Courtyard, until 31 Aug (not 18), 1:50pm, £6.50-10

The Beau Zeaux: An Improvised Comedy, Pleasance Courtyard, until 30 Aug (various dates), 5:45pm, £8.50-12

Adam Riches: Coach Coach, Pleasance Dome, until 30 Aug, 9:45pm, £7-14