Two TikTok star writer comedians
fill the Noël Coward Theatre with laughter
“Ben “I was in the forces”
Alex “Parcel Force!”
Ben “I was with the Feds”
After a Covid lockdown, the aptly named show, The Comeback has reopened at the Noel Coward Theatre in St Martins Lane.
The Comeback is the work of two stand-up comedians known on BBC Radio as The Pin. In the show Alex Owen and Ben Ashenden play Warm Up artists, young aspiring comics with hopes of impressing a Hollywood director reported to be in their audience. They bicker about routines and try to improve their act all the time worrying that life maybe passing them by.
Alex and Ben also play two ageing comics, Jimmy and Sid, the act they warm up. Jimmy and Sid are at the end of their careers and thinking about retirement. Their show is a reliving of some of their best old fashioned sketches and routines including their signature song, “Two Peas in a Pod”.
As they switch roles, when dominant, rational Ben and zany Alex become the older pair, Ben as less secure Sid defers to controlling Jimmy played by Alex.
Initially we hear jokes from Alex and Ben, quirky, off the wall and original humour, routines like for instance the difficult mirror act. Ben talks about “life in the forces” only for Alex to prick his bubble by exposing that Ben was working for Parcel Force. They use props in the travelling trunk and introduce the idea that props look smaller onstage than off.
The veterans, Jimmy and Sid, in red spangled jackets and top hats, the comedy is end of the pier patter, for example, a sketch about Sherlock Holmes or dickie bows and dancing music hall style. When one of the veterans, Sid, gets knocked out, a younger Ben will attempt to stand in.
From the joke telling of the first half of the show, we descend into more physical comedy, sight jokes and farce using disappearing behind the red curtain to appear at the other end of the stage, but changed in some way. Two tall locker style cabinets either side of the stage are used for someone to be locked up in, only for the confined person to appear elsewhere, in lightning quick time. It is hard to remember that just Alex and Ben are onstage as four characters are created.
A special “mystery” guest is roped in from the audience and it will be someone we all know. The night I saw, it was Toby Jones who spoke his given lines with theatrical clarity and aplomb, although not always at the required moment. He does get a great cheer.
The humour in this show is suitable for even your great aunt and your children unlike some of the risqué and smutty jokes found in pantomimes.
The Comeback is so slick and well timed, I wondered at the complexity of the stage directions. This is a work of two very skilled and zany comedians and writers, with a great sense of timing, which did not falter even in the most hectic of routines. I was concerned at 90 minutes it might drag but it left me seriously thinking about going to see it again to share this evening full of laughter.
Written and performed by Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen
Directed by Emily Burns
Director: Emily Burns
Designer: Rosanna Vize
Lighting Designer: Prema Mehta
Sound Designer: Giles Thomas
Running Time: One hour 30 minutes
without an interval
Booking at the Noel Coward Theatre
until 25th July 2021
The Noel Coward Theatre
85-88 St Martin’s Lane
London WC2N 4AP
Telephone: 0844 482 5151
Tube: Leicester Square
Reviewed by Malcolm Beckett
at the Noel Coward
on 10th July 2021