Watching Paul Richards on stage is quite a dynamic experience.  He bounded on stage buzzing from supermarket own-brand energy drink and crackling with neurotic motion.  He then proceeded to present three short plays (for marvellous people, of which I suppose I was one) in under an hour.  47 minutes in fact, which might have been a record.  He had been drinking an awful lot of budget Red Bull on the drive from Cambridge.

According to his online bio he performed a mammoth 85 times over the course of 23 days during the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe as well as touring from Weymouth to the Shetland Islands the same year travelling only by public transport.  You can believe it.  I can’t imagine him in repose.  You wouldn’t believe he ever sleeps, not once you’ve seen him on stage.

However what struck me particularly was that despite the apparently chaotic nature of the show and the performer, the writing underpinning everything was particularly artful and layered.  The three linked “plays” tied into each other masterfully with themes and elements appearing and reappearing throughout the show.  Cats, beds and balloons featured regularly.

And despite the anarchic sense of comic embarrassment that drives the performance there are real fleeting moments of wistful melancholy.  Of someone trapped in a cage of their own making (or toilet cubicle during the misadventures of the middle play).

There was a happy ending available though.  And a sad ending.  The choice was offered.  Richards said that recently, in Cambridge, the audience chose the ‘sad’ ending.

The people of Cambridge must be monsters.  That would be like kicking a puppy.  A puppy wired on own-brand energy drink.  A puppy that looks like “an ugly Hugh Grant”.

His words, not mine.

The Swindon Fringe continues until 15th April
https://www.swindonfringefestival.com/

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