One of the best things about Fringe is the incredible diversity – be it of show, of venues, of levels of experience in performers (there’s as many newcomers as there are experienced old hands) – there really is something to cater to every taste. Willem Richards IRL is an off-the-wall one-man sketch show in one of the smaller rooms at the Courthouse Hotel in North Melbourne. In Richards’ own words, it’s not really a show, it’s just him messing about in his bedroom. And what fun he seems to be having!
On the night I attended he had a number of work colleagues in attendance, which definitely broke down the barrier between performer and audience, something that may have been unavoidable anyway given the close nature of the space. The sketches were funny themselves – I laughed hugely at Dumb Darryl, Douchebag Hat, and his visit to a masseuse – but there is a lot to be said those times when things went a little off script; while the former were definitely polished and practised, the latter allowed his considerable personality to shine though, and his “covering” was very enjoyable.
To that: there was a moment during his sketch about a deranged theatre director where he broke, just a little, and that actually someone enhanced the bit, an acknowledgement that he too found it ridiculous. Another such moment came during Millionaire Hot Seat, when an audience member managed to provide a completely unexpected answer that reduced him, again, to laughter, and the audience with him.
I don’t know that, as the show currently is, it would have worked quite as well in a larger space, but the intimacy of that tiny room (his dramatic entrance was him stepping out from behind a window curtain) created an instant bond. We were all friends laughing along together. I personally got the most joy out of his off-the-cuff moments, when he too appreciated the silliness. This is definitely a show I can see being polished and presented at the later festivals, and when it is, I look forward to seeing it.
Willem Richards IRL is on at Courthouse Hotel until 30 September 2018 as part of Melbourne Fringe. Tickets are available from the Melbourne Fringe website.