The Comeback by Ben Ashenden and Alex Joiner. The Noel Coward Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London WC2N to 3 January 2021. 4****. William Russell

Need a tonic to dispel those winter blues? Here it is. Ashenden and Owen are better known as radio’s The Pin and as on line comics which is a slight problem for me with this hilarious account of how the double act of Alec and Ben fare when they are the supporting act for a fading double act called Jimmy and Sid in a round down seaside theatre the night a big producer turns up in the stalls. They are funny, but double acts depend on being known – Eric and Ernie, Stan and Ollie and all the rest. You need to know the faces, to love both, and to enjoy how the straight man bullies the funny one and gets his own comeuppance in turn. When you come to that sort of act cold it takes a little while to warm to it, but by the end of some ninety minutes of inspired clowning, and with a little help from a visiting celelbrity in the audience and a couple of other actors, I was duly bowled over.
If what you need is a laugh at a time when the world is no laughing matter here they are provided galore. The pair switch characters at the change or drop of a hat, exit stage left and return stage right seconds later, and work wonders with one chair when they need two. They perform in front of a red curtain which sometimes is the backcloth as the chat to the audience, or sometimes is the curtain beyond which Jimmy and Sid are doing their stuff.
It is also used for endless gags as are the two doors on either side of the stage.As to just who one is looking at, well it gets quite confusing as to whether it is Sid and Jimmy or Ben and Alex.
The visiting producer is to be played by different celebrities – mine was someone who once won Strictly and could have won the Grand National for all the help that was, but the rest of the audience knew.
The first night was actually scheduled for later this week but with Tier 3 lurking in the wings the producers brought things forward and allowed reviewers to go as and when. I went to the Sunday matinee in the bleak mid winter. I left having had the proverbial good time. For me The Pin are faceless radio comedians no longer.There is a gap for a double act the nation loves to laugh at at the moment and here could be the one to seize the crown which still belongs in Britain to Morecambe and Wise.

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