Pros: Immersive, highly entertaining.
Cons: If you’re not a fan of audience participation, probably best to stick to the back rows!
When your outstanding memory from a production involves an up close and personal moment with an actor’s “pregnant” belly – shoved right under my chin – you know you’re in for an extraordinary show where anything can happen. Such was the madcap, gung-ho sixty minutes of Coach Coach, an hour that felt almost like a wacky game show, with a generous smattering of fourth wall breakage that even Deadpool couldn’t help but smirk at.
Adam Riches really IS Coach Coach, the gum-chewing scholarship-failing protagonist and Volfsball coach for the Centaurs, the underdog team of misfits who have yet to win against the Lizards, an equally bizarre bunch, only with slightly better ball skills. We follow Coach and his team, consisting of Tug (Charles Booth) and Memphis, with his two left arms (Nick Hall) as they work with new team player Willy T Wolf (John Kearns), staking all their hopes and dreams on winning the game for the first time. A special mention for the Lizard player Swish (Daniel Cook) whose high-pitched obnoxious delivery made for a brilliant comic-villain, not to mention a backwards throw straight into the net, making the audience erupt in whoops and cheers… before suddenly realising they were rooting for the wrong side! Riches amalgamates all the American sports coach stereotypes in Coach Coach and what results is a self-mocking jock-tastic parody in the best possible style.
Deeply satirical in tone, Coach Coach sends up countless 80s and 90s movies and while not tugging violently at our heart strings, there is a family narrative that feels fleshed out enough to gently pull. The violence is through the laughs, with a wise cracking script which pulls no punches and on many occasions left the audience baying for more.
On reflection, it was the smaller touches that I remember best: the ‘Go Centaurs!’ flag we were given to wave, being personally welcomed into the theatre by the coach himself, the funny slogans on the posters around the walls, even down to the jersey worn by the poor man chosen from the audience to play for the team. All these touches made for a joyfully immersive experience, perhaps not quite as much as Riches’ previous works, but as this is more narrative driven I felt it an apt level.
Although it may be regarded as border lining one-dimensional in terms of the gags, it is no less fun for it. Not every play has to be fundamentally deep, sometimes you just need to hoot and holler.
Written and Directed By: Adam Riches
Box Office: 020 7478 0100
Booking Link: http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/adam-riches-is-coach-coach/
Booking Until: 2 April 2016