Richard Gadd is a deeply disturbed young man. Crammed into a pitch black attic space somewhere inThe Counting House, in a room hotter than the sun and barred in by a scummy looking old mattress, we witness a hellish scene that is a multimedia experience - part play, part video, with sketches (although such a word conjures images of quirky "skits" that have no relevance in this dark world) and stand up - visceral, theatrical and very, very funny.
The show is as well structured and meticulously performed as it is surprising.
The show charts the events following Gadd hitting his head and losing his memory. Framed in a psychiatrist's office (shown on a video screen), the show transitions with grace between haunting flashbacks and audience interaction, the acted elements of the show intercut with direct address. Focusing on finding his barely remembered family with only an old photograph for help, the fictionalized Gadd takes us on a brave and utterly ridiculous journey through the dark secrets of his past, from a set of neglectful parents to a less than satisfied girlfriend. The line between horror and comedy comes full circle, leaving you gasp for breath somewhere between gaping in shock and laughing until it hurts.
Gadd goes to the furthest extremes to make his audience laugh - to go into detail here would be to ruin the many twists and turns that the narrative takes over the course of the hour. A sense of disbelief and stunned shock is crucial to the punch behind the show. Let it just be said that it ranges from the moving to the grotesque, and as anyone who saw his show last year will testify, Gadd is peerless in his commitment to the joke no matter what the physical cost. The show is a little less physically violent than it’s predecessor, but as last year’s show contained live flagellation, this isn’t saying much. The show is very similar in style and content; in fact it can be seen as a continuation of the narrative, although you certainly don’t have to be aware of his previous work to enjoy the show.
However, it’s not all about the shock value – the show is as well structured and meticulously performed as it is surprising. Gadd's mind shattering on stage is one of the most truly alive things at the Fringe - manic energy combines with slick, absorbing acting. This complex and electrifying performance isn't for the faint of heart; a lesson in how to write a brilliantly original comedy show.