Sonia Friedman brings new farce from The Pin to West End

Sonia Friedman Productions presents The Comeback at London’s Noel Coward Theatre in December, written by and starring Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen

The Comeback Noel Coward Theatre The Pin
Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen

Comedy double act Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen – best known as The Pin – are to star in their own new comedy, The Comeback, in London’s West End this Christmas.

Described as a “hilarious and heartwarming” farce, their debut play depicts the backstage tussle of two revival comedy duos. 

It will run at the Noel Coward Theatre, with social distancing, from 8 December to 3 January, with the pair joined each night by a different surprise guest in a cameo role.

Presented by Sonia Friedman Productions (SFP), it will be directed by Emily Burns, with set and costume design by Rosanna Vize, lighting design by Prema Mehta, and sound design and music by Giles Thomas.

Ashenden and Owen have recorded four series of their critically lauded show, The Pin, for BBC Radio 4, picking up nominations at the Writers Guild Awards and Radio Academy Awards and winning the BBC Radio Award for Best Comedy. 

This summer, Audible launched their latest comedy series, The Special Relationship, which follows a rising British double act in its attempt to break into America’s comedy circuit. 

Since lockdown, they have entertained Twitter with their spoof Zoom videos featuring guests such as Nish Kumar, Jack Whitehall, Jamie Demetriou, Lolly Adefope, Nick Mohammed, Phil Wang, Dom Joly and Patricia Hodge. 

Producer Sonia Friedman said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be announcing The Comeback as SFP’s return to the West End. I was excited about The Pin’s debut play long before lockdown, but after the year we’ve had, it feels like the perfect tonic. 

“More than ever, we need the laughter and emotional connection of communal experience – and frankly, nothing provides that like live theatre. The Comeback delivers all that and much more.”

In a statement, Ashenden and Owen said: “After eight years of lugging props between tiny venues, and eight months of watching those props gather dust, we feel ridiculously excited and fortunate to be bringing a play to the West End. 

“For it to have been developed with and presented by a producer of Sonia Friedman’s immense standing makes us very proud, and provides ample material for anxiety dreams in which hidden cameras are revealed and words like ‘prank’ shouted. We hope to provide 90 minutes of silliness, escapism, and extremely well-dusted props.”

Friedman championed the importance of theatre at a time when governments are considering tighter restrictions over the coming months to tackle Covid-19.

“It’s so heartening to see artists and audiences in theatres once again this Christmas,” she said. “As theatre makers – performers and producers alike – we have a duty to do our bit to lift the nation’s spirits and nourish its soul. Theatre plays a critical role in maintaining our collective mental health. 

“That’s why, even while theatres were forced to close, artists looked at other outlets to make and share work, on and offline. It’s why now, despite the ultra-tight financial pressures social distancing entails and against all the odds, we’re doing all we can to get shows back on stages. Audiences need live entertainment as much as we need them.

“Make no mistake, though: theatre is not back in business. Having shuttered 18 productions worldwide seven months ago, all of which remain suspended, I cannot fully – let alone profitably – re-open my shows. As well as government go-ahead – even just a date – we’re still waiting for an insurance scheme to protect our profession in the months ahead. 

“Producing shows this Christmas is a tightrope act, but The Comeback will go ahead – following approved performing arts working guidelines  – and so long as government restrictions allow.

“Changed circumstances offer new opportunities – to introduce adventurous audiences to the most brilliant and inspiring new talent. That’s one of the best parts of my job, and The Pin are up there with the very best. 

“Following in the footsteps of Britain’s comedy greats – Morecambe and Wise, Fry and Laurie, French and Saunders – they are going to light up the West End with a combination of laugh-out-loud slapstick, self-aware silliness and witty wordplay in the most heart-warming story of two friends following their dreams. 

“This genius comedy shows just how precious live performance is and, as British theatre begins to build itself back up, becoming a frontline of the national recovery, The Comeback couldn’t be more timely. Theatre isn’t just for Christmas. This is just the start.”

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About Mark Ludmon 251 Articles
Mark Ludmon has been a journalist for over 20 years, specialising in theatre as well as hospitality and drinks after starting out on regional daily newspapers. He has an MA in early modern literature and history, focusing on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and a theatre studies MA from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. He has also been on the judging panel for the Olivier Awards. He can be found tweeting as @MarkLudmon and writing about theatre at https://markludmon.com.