The Comeback at Noël Coward Theatre
Comic duo Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen, also known as Radio 4’s The Pin, are delighting audiences with a West End play packed with laughs. A welcome breeze of lightheartedness, The Comeback is not just a comedy about comedians, but an ode to the genre itself. The production brings together most of the long-standing comic elements and weaves them into a plot that’s as surreal as it is congenial. A mix of double-entendres, misunderstandings, stand-up jokes, pranks, farce, and playing with the concepts of doubles and disguise means that there’s never a dull moment.
The play begins with its protagonists, a double act also named Ben and Alex, performing a gig as the supporting act of another comic duo, named Jimmy and Syd (also played by Ashenden and Owen). Ben and Alex are awaiting their big breakthrough, whereas Jimmy and Syd have had their heyday and are hoping to revive their success with this comeback tour. The seasoned comedians are disheartened and not very optimistic, but when they discover that a Hollywood director is in the audience, they find new vigour and decide to impress him. A little accident scuppers their plans, however, and sets off a hilarious mix-up of roles involving the two couples, now rivals.
Directed by Emily Burns, the show is dynamic and full of energy. The physicality of the sketches is noteworthy and, coupled with Ashenden and Owen’s impeccable comic timing, makes for an exhilarating ride. Props play a big part in bringing the sketches to life, and theatre itself is a theme and a protagonist. The Comeback is a nod to comedy duos of the past but it also feels like a gesture of encouragement to any comedian feeling the pressure of their role and the audience’s expectations. Fun, brilliantly executed and a celebration of the art of performance, it’s exactly the kind of entertainment that is needed at this time.
Photos: Marc Brenner
The Comeback is at Noël Coward Theatre from 8th December 2020 with performances after 15thDecember postponed until further notice. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.