You’d be forgiven for not knowing about The Pin. Even at The Fringe, while they have a particular fanbase, they stand very separately from mainstream comedy. But they’re not actually ‘alternative’. They’ve won several awards since 2013, and the pair have had three series of a multi award winning radio show on BBC Radio 4. These guys really should be bigger.
Why aren’t The Pin on TV, then? Well I’ve no doubt they will be at some point, but the format of The Pin is very wordy comedy. Watching The Pin: Backstage, quite often the sketches are made up of two men talking to one another on stage. There’s no set, no ‘acting’ as such, just two guys talking to one another, and this is why The Pin works so well on radio. Luckily for us, it works just as well on stage.
The format of this show is that The Pin, knowing that they aren’t a mainstream duo, are actually the warm up act of a more famous double act. They are introduced as a warm up at the start of the show, and perform a few general sketches to ‘warm us up’. They then introduce the main act and leave the stage. They then enter from the otherside, they now act as if they are backstage and that the audience is no longer present. This is the majority of the show, and it’s easily the highlight.
They chat about comedy and their act. They also attempt to rehearse other sketches, but often fall into problems. Ben Ashenden generally plays the straight man, and Alex Owen plays a generally goofier and sillier character. These characters are flexible so the pair have room to maneuver, but playing themselves they had a general straightman/comic relief setup, although they don’t really have a ‘comedy’ character out of the pair.
One of the highlights of the backstage segment is the audience interaction. As they are meant to be backstage, there technically isn’t an audience, but the way they deal with the fourth wall which they, and we, both know doesn’t exist, is particularly good. They act as if to throw darts at the audience, attempt to bounce balls off it and so on. They mess with the audience, discuss them as if they were not actually there, and directly reference towards them in a way that somehow never manages to feel like they’re breaking the fourth wall.
As you’d expect from The Pin, the amazing word play is the star of the show, however they manage to mix up the formula to keep the show interesting. The established comedy duo is also played by Ben and Alex, and during the ‘interval’, one of the pair leaves the stage, only for each man to come face to face with their alter egos. After a comedy of errors, The Pin end up in a position to steal the show and do so.
Things naturally go awry and this leads to some confusing stage direction as each of the four characters (played by two men) chase each other on and off stage; this unexpected farce is superb fun. The Pin is probably the best sketch duo you’ll see at the Fringe this year and this is coming from a guy who very much dislikes sketch comedy.
The Pin: Backstage is on at Pleasance Courtyard – Pleasance 2 until the 27th of August.
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The Pin prove why they’re the benchmark of sketch comedy writing in 2018.
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