19 March 2014

Soho Theatre

I’ve been getting a bit serious of late. When I started this blog back in summer 2012, it was all bubbling excitement and (attempted) wit. Recently it seems I’m more likely to be found in reflecting on Beckettian existentialism or bleak Shakespearean tragedy. Both worthy topics of debate and attention, but really — what I need is a Good Old Laugh. Enter, The Pin.

More accurately, this duo should be pinned down (ah, there’s that attempted wit back again…) as a Good Young Laugh, as this duo are, in the grand scheme of things, pretty fresh-faced. Yet they’ve spent enough time in ADC smokers, Footlights Spring Revues and Edinburgh Fringe stages that their craft has become well-honed. Over the past couple of years The Pin has moved from a trio to a duo, but the combination of innovation, sharpness and downright silliness remains that put this sketch act on The List‘s Top 5 Comedy Shows of 2013. In this run at the Soho Theatre, a mixture of old and new content creates an evening where the laughs keep coming.

Photo: Lindsey Clarke
Photo: Lindsey Clarke

As if to place themselves firmly in a new modern age of sketch comedy — as the Evening Standard points out, The Two Ronnies this ain’t — the show begins with Alexander Owen typing out the script for the evening, projected onto an overhead screen for the audience to read, while Ben Ashenden keeps up with his newly-emerging lines and even the typos along the way. It’s also our first sign that audience participation is going to figure pretty heavily in the show, and was the point at which I thanked my lucky stars we didn’t sit in the front row… By the final sketch, audience members are carrying out extended ‘character developments’ in place of the actors themselves, to guffaws of laughter from the appreciative audience. It was nice to see Owen showing his own enjoyment too, giggling at the poor, unsuspecting audience members’ valiant efforts from the side of the stage.

The duo’s not-at-all-rehearsed patter in between sketches is likeable and funny, but — as is only right — the best comedy comes in the sketches themselves. From the familiar favourite of the opening skit to some cracking new material, the audience remained firmly on side and the laughter flowed thick and fast. There is a strong variety of sketches, with characterisations ranging from footballer-turned-wannabe-improv-actor Frank Lampard, to a hapless quizmaster, to a Shakespearean Fool who takes his innuendos rather too far… (my friend suggested as an English lit graduate I might be horrified — far from it: this is genius). As always, longer sketches risk losing their momentum and therefore their laughs, and not all elements work to the same level. A series of new inventions could be cut without much loss, and the Tim Burton versions of films, invariably featuring Johnny Depp in a weird hat, become a little tiresome.

Overall however, the comedy is as sharp as ever and the heaps of new material prove that this act is still going places. As a fan from early on, I of course lament the absence of some old favourites — the car salesman, the Italian restaurant, Ashenden’s ‘old man’ monologues… the man who left his recently-adopted son a whale in his will?! But, of course, I know I’d be bemoaning a lack of originality if all this were actually included. As they say, there’s no pleasing the critics…


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