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Review: The Comeback, Noel Coward Theatre - is this the comedy we need?

I love a serious play, something thought-provoking and challenging but right now, with everything that is going on, I just want a laugh. I want frothy fun that is diverting. Did behind-the-scenes farce The Comeback at the Noel Coward Theatre fit the bill?

Ben Ashenden & Alex Owen in The Comeback. Photo Marc Brenner

Written by and starring Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen, The Comeback is a bit like Michael Frayn's Noises Off but instead of seeing the on and off stage shenanigans during a play, it is set on a comedy tour.

The 'stars' of the tour are an ageing comedy duo (Morecombe and Wise-esq) trying to stage a comeback. Ben and Alex are the warm-up act and hoping the tour will catapult them into the big time.

When they spot the name of a Hollywood director on the list of ticket holders the need to impress suddenly becomes even more important.

Ashenden and Owen's humour is gentle, fun and cleverly disarming. You wonder where they are going with a skit or a gag but where it lands is often a surprise - and all the funnier for it.

Ben Ashenden & AlexOwen in The Comeback. Photo: Marc Brenner

The 90-minute show is peppered with recurring jokes and builds to a frantic final sequence that is straight out of physical farce 101 - and it is skillfully done.

On the surface, The Comeback seems like a simple comedy but it slowly reveals its layers. Seemingly throwaway threads introduced in the first act, come to fruition in a way you can't help but admire. 

I grinned, I chuckled, I laughed and I guffawed.

There will be time enough for plays that reflect the trauma and challenges of 2020 but right now we need the clever silliness of The Comeback so we can laugh into our face masks.

The Comeback is due to run until 3 January, Covid-restrictions permitting and you can find out more details on the official website.

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