Comedy: The Pin
Rivkah Brown was impressed by this slick sketch show
by Rivkah Brown
Friday 15th June 2012, 16:16 BST
Footlights just got serious. Recent Cambridge graduates and would-be real-life comics, Alex Owen, Ben Ashenden and 2011 Footlights President Mark Fiddaman have returned to the Bridge, with their year-long project The Pin. The trio were given a warm welcome by a crowd who clearly remembered them fondly. Nevertheless, they did what few sketch shows are brave enough to do: they began by introducing themselves, teasingly flashing a glimpse of their ‘real’ selves, before throwing up another hilarious comic smokescreen.
The Pin have clearly picked up the magic formula for a good sketch show: split-second scene changes, a threading narrative that is slowly revealed to the audience, and, most deliciously, a taste for the random. The sales assistant at Dixons who claims to be the guy from Wheatus. The man who wears a suit of bees. Such strokes of comic genius were prop- and effect-free: all they required was a bit of imagination. Other gags exploited the obvious: Owen the talent show host flaunting his homosexuality to boost ratings, for example.
It’s hard to say, then, why I don’t think that The Pin deserves five stars, when they ticked all the boxes. Maybe it was the lack of thrill. That’s not to say the play wasn’t inventive, sharp or frankly hilarious: my sides just didn’t hurt from laughing afterwards. Although I wouldn’t go as far as the show’s own description of its performers as ‘decrepit’, some sketches felt overworked, and lacked freshness.
The Pin’s period drama parodies, however, were wickedly good: in particular the Shakespearean pastiche, starring Owen as the oversexed, pun-hungry Fool, bawdy to the point of nymphomania. There was a tendency to take the jokes too far, though I got the feeling the trio’s aim was to make their audience squirm. Only Cambridge graduates, I thought, could have such an accurate idea of how not to act Shakespeare.
The Pin is a risk-taking show: they make explicit what a lot of British comedy would often leave unsaid. They pull their trousers down. They make copious references to anal sex. Such crudity can go one of two ways: luckily for The Pin, the audience lapped it up. And in spite of my own prudishness, this candid comedy began to grow on me.
I couldn’t help but feeling that there might be a smidgen of truth to some of the sketches: Ashenden’s struggling actor played amusingly on the realities of breaking out into the professional thespian world, with all its concomitant insecurities and ruthless rejections. Saying that, it didn’t take much to see that Owen, Ashenden and Fiddaman were the cream of the Cantabrigian crop: their plasticity in moving between roles, the shameless bravado with which they took them on, and their ability to end the show on a note of stirring seriousness and not seem like twats, all suggested that they were geared for professional success.