The Pin review – one of Edinburgh's most dazzling comedy shows

Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Terrific skits and inventive gags mean the laughs come thick and fast in a delightful new hour from the sketch duo

Cleverness comes as standard from sketch duo the Pin. In the past, they have never quite shaken the suspicion of smugness and a sense, perhaps, that we’re buying all that flamboyant invention at the expense of warmth. No such danger with their new show, Backstage, which is simultaneously one of the most dazzling comedy shows in Edinburgh and a complete hoot. It’s probably no coincidence that here, more pronounced than before, Alex Owen and Ben Ashenden embrace the straight man/funny man dichotomy they have hitherto resisted.

The conceit is that the Pin play second fiddle to another double act, Philip and Robin. After their support slot, Owen and Ashenden repair backstage to practise their sketches, snark about the audience and fantasise about taking over at the top of the bill. What follows is a giddy slice of Noises Off-style knockabout, overlaid with the Pin’s signature meta-comedy, as Owen, Ashenden, Philip and Robin chase one another on stage and off, identities get scrambled and a chair on the stage miraculously reappears – and vanishes from – behind the scenes.

It’s as much comic play as sketch show, even while Owen and Ashenden slot in some terrific free-standing skits. The whistling joke is one for the ages; the Scandi-noir spoof is irresistibly silly. And, like most of the Pin’s material, wholly surprising. They are operating at such a high level of inventiveness, they can afford to toy – as per the gag about Owen’s favourite Shakespeare play – with the audience’s expectations of a punchline. We are forever tantalised at the prospect of the next volte-face – it’s like watching a magic show.

What’s delightful is how all this tricksiness is embedded in the cosily familiar conventions of vaudevillian farce. As an act, Philip and Robin are old-school – and so, too, is the Pin’s backstage caper, with slapstick fall guys bundled into cupboards and limbs extending from behind screens. There’s something satisfying, too, about watching Owen embrace his inner gormless idiot, while Ashenden takes on the exasperated foreman role, without stinting on the laughs – of which there are loads.


Brian Logan

The GuardianTramp

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