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Summerhall debut


Aug 1-11, 13-18, 20-26: TICKETS

JUNE 21, 2024 

In 1974, Jimmy Connors was the greatest tennis player on Earth. In 1991, he's getting annihilated at the US Open by his arch-nemesis' little brother. What happened next was one of the greatest comebacks in sport, when Jimmy, fuelled by ghosts of his turbulent past, winds back the clock to remind the world what happens when you rattle the cage of a geriatric tiger, one last time. Edinburgh Comedy Award Winner Adam Riches makes his Summerhall debut with this fast-paced, funny and intensely physical ride, deep inside the mind of an ageing, swaggering alpha.


Hi Adam, thank you for talking with The New Current ahead of EdFringe, are you excited to be heading to the Fringe?


I am! This is a show that has been long in gestation and to be finally at a point where I can start to see what the hell it is my brain has been trying to describe to me for so long, feels really exciting.


What makes EdFringe so special?


It’s pretty much the only place that you can explore an idea, over an extended period of time, in front of an avid audience with the world’s press watching. For all the problems associated with the ridiculous costs and greed abounding from all the vultures wanting to hinder you doing that up there, you just can’t find anything similar to that industry triumverate anywhere in the world.


You are a winner of the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award, what did it mean to you to win this award and get this type of recognition for you comedy?


It was a surpise. I wasn’t really expecting or looking for that to happen. It opened up some doors for me whilst simultaneously closing some others. It’s a nice memory to have along the way, but if I hadn’t won it, I’d still be looking to write and create exactly the same type of stuff that I’m doing now anyway.


You’re set to make your Summerhall debut with Jimmy, any nerves ahead of your run?


A lot! Which I take to be a good thing. So much of this show feels outside my wheelhouse, at the same time as sitting comfortably alongside everything else I’ve ever made. The pressure I feel from desperately wanting to realise in an hour, everything that I think is pretty fascinating about this story and this guy, is immense.  


Can you tell me a little bit about Jimmy, how did this show come about?


Jimmy Connors was the world’s best tennis player during the seventies. He came into a sport that was very twee and very staid and with his long hair, aggressive game and brash attitude, completely shook things up to usher in what we know now as the modern age of tennis. Twenty years later however and it’s a completely different story. He is now a wounded bear, who stubbornly refuses to accept his own physical limitations, playing against not just his opponents, but oooold Father Time himself. I figured that was something we can all identify with. 


I came across the story of this 1991 US Open run via an ESPN documentary I watched during lockdown. It immediately struck me as the perfect ‘sports movie’, and after some further digging around about Jimmy himself, especially his relationship with his mother and grandmother, I instantly knew this could work as a stage show and knew I had to be the one who did it.


Is Jimmy inspired by any particular alphas you’ve known or met?


Probably the reverse! He was ‘that guy’ back in the 70s and 80s, so I think a lot of the men that I was surrounded by growing up, emulated him. None of them were Grand Slam winning tennis players of course. But that swaggering, bullish, ‘get out of my way, I’m me’ vibe…well, we’ve all known and been on the receiving end of quite a few of those guys and their multitude of issues havent we?! 


A nice quote I found about him is ‘Jimmy Connors is not a man, or a moment. Jimmy Connors is an attitude’. I think that’s right. It certainly proved a jumping off point for me to approach him as a character.

"At this point in his life though he also had mellowed into a personality the fans could get behind - that wasnt always the way when he was younger."

How different is Jimmy compared to your previous shows and character creations?


I’ve played lots of real-life people over the years. Some have been inventions in my shows, (Sean Bean as a medival warlord, Pierce Brosnan as a centaur) and some have been other peoples realisations in theirs, (Andy Warhol, Odysseus!)


Jimmy certainly has an alpha male aspect to him, which is right up my street. And he was also a bit of a rogue. At this point in his life though he also had mellowed into a personality the fans could get behind - that wasn’t always the way when he was younger. He was often public enemy number one and a player the fans respected rather than enjoyed. But time and fallibility made him relatable and much more likeable and no-one was better at harnessing the emotions of a crowd to get him going than Jimmy. In a way, he’s the ultimate audience interactor! 


When a show is running are you able to be flexible with the material or do you prefer to stick to that you’ve planned?


Depends on the show or the sketch or the moment I’m trying to create. I’m not a very good improvisor straight off the bat. But give me a character and a situation and I can ad lib on top of what I’ve already got all night long.


The audience participation aspect that I’m probably most known for actually came out from needing to break away from the restrictions of the text, to keep me involved and interested. In a comedy festival environment, I’ve always felt audiences love to experience a show that appears to be happening just for them. Custom-made. I feel they deserve that and it’s the biggest USP of live performance. Make it feel live. To lock all that up and just go through the motions each day, can end up creating an emotional wall between you and them.


Having said that, there won’t be any audience interaction in Jimmy – even though I still think it’s been listed as containing it. This is an intense, highly physical, one-man show that I want to involve people in emotionally rather than literally. It’ll be enough for me to get through all the tennis choreography, let alone someone else! 


Do you have any traditions or superstitions before heading out on stage and once a show is over how do you unwind?


The only ‘superstition’ I have is just one little look up to the sky before I walk onstage to all the people I would love to be in there watching that are not with us anymore. A little dedication to them has somehow becomes a regular thing for me. 


Other than that I just like to keep life simple up there and not get too involved in anything outside of my own hour. I don’t go out, I don’t drink. I just like to sleep, eat, swim and go to the cinema. I’m like a shark, albeit one with a Cineworld pass. 


Have you always had a passion for comedy and performing?


Performing yes, comedy not so much! I always wrote stories when I was younger and then acted them out in front of my parents. I always knew I wanted to be an actor and make my own stuff from a very early age. It’s why it’s proved so hard to give it up and walk away. Much like Jimmy himself! What is it that I’m still chasing? What is it that I’m unable to let go of…? Wow. That’s pretty deep. Maybe he should write a play about me… 


If you could host a dinner party for 9 comedians, living or dead, who would you invite?


First off, I’m not hosting a dinner party. People are welcome to come round and sit and watch me watch TV. But I’m not setting up any kind of ‘situation’ for them, let alone firing up the air fryer. Secondly, if 9 comedians arrived at my door wanting to come in, they’d get the exact same length of shrift I’d give 1. Short.


I’ve spent so much time around comedians over the years, that it didn’t take me long to realise I’d sooner be trapped in a goose with a flock of geese. Way more chance of getting a word in! 


But 9 people I would take the door off the snib for? John Williams, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Sean Connery, Victoria Wood, Julie Walters, AA Milne, Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon. And if I can have 10? Jimmy Connors’ Mum. 

Adam Riches Jimmy.jpg

Since you started out in comedy what have been the most important things you’ve discovered about yourself and the type of comedy/performer you want to be?


That originality matters. It’s not always what gets found, rewarded, or developed. But to keep myself motivated, challenged, inspired – I’ve always had to reach and risk that little bit further to do something I believe in, rather than what I think others would want me to do.


The Fringe has changed a lot since I first started. It used to feel a little more experimental, daring, forgiving. Edinburgh always struck me as a place where I would find an agent after a few years of developing my work. Now I see so many first time performers that have already secured representation, TV deals and a fully-formed ‘career plan’. That’s cool. I like how things evolve, I think it’s important. But for me, finding my way, finding my voice and finding my style, were not just part of coming up repeatedly. They were the whole. 


What’s been the best advice you’ve been given and is there any advice you offer anyone wanting to get into comedy?


I think that’s the most complex question you’ve asked! Reason being, a piece of advice that might have worked for me, may well not be helpful or relevant to anyone else. But one thing I did like was when I was told to ‘not change to fit the industry, but make the industry change to fit me’. I like that. Hasn’t often worked! But I like it and I’m happy to die on a hill that has that mown into it.  


And finally, what would you hope Fringe audiences will take away from Jimmy?


That they got to forget about everything else as they sat down to have a great time watching a great story, featuring a great character.  

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