The Pin and Adam Lawrence share an hour
ADC Theatre, 11pm, Tue 13 Nov
Cambridge theatre is an industry with a built-in brain drain. Even the most talented Footlights must graduate some day, leaving us for their serious, grown-up comedy careers. There’s something poignant, then, about these two acts from recent graduating classes returning to their old stomping-ground.
Performing as The Pin, Alex Owen, Mark Fiddaman and Ben Ashenden rattled through a fast-paced succession of sketches. The writing was clever, the one-liners impeccable. The guys have clearly emerged from the Footlights as supremely confident comedians: rather than deliberately courting controversy for controversy’s sake, they’re ready to riff upon anything they find silly, whether online banner ads, Bond gadgets or a camp priest who says everything backwards. Admitted, the trio do pick some easy targets for parody, but they pull them off remarkably well, developing familiar themes in unpredictable directions. For instance, their over-the-top Shakespearean luvvies were accompanied by a brilliantly obscene Fool desperate to read innuendo into the most innocent of lines. Another sketch began as a tame Downton Abbey spoof but degenerated into escalating storms of outraged tea-spluttering as each scandalous revelation about young Lady Edith unfolded.
Ashenden showed an impressive command of timing: playing a school examiner, he quietly worked the audience until they were so prepared to laugh that, on opening his mouth, they burst into hysteria before they even knew what he was going to say. Fiddaman is stunningly charismatic, expert in both deadpan and frivolous deliveries, not to mention a superb pseudo-Russian accent. Owen, meanwhile, makes full use of his talents for summoning hilarious characters, playing around with them and switching to another equally bizarre personality before you can say ‘versatility’. Above all, the three obviously have a lot of fun together – at the end of each sketch, you could always see them snatching a grimace at each other before the lights went out.
Adam Lawrence’s extended half-hour sketch was a distinctly odd contrast. And much more adventurous than the previous act. He plays a drudge idling backstage on the opening night of a show, unable to stop himself from experimenting with a range of zany imaginary characters. From the French waiter to the ‘loveable cockney scamp’, Lawrence seems to have written the whole sketch as an excuse to show off his comic virtuosity. At times he seemed a bit Mr Bean with his precise mime, his non-verbal hums, blubbers and chuckles. At other moments his prancing, strutting, waving and general preening made it more like Russell Brand. It was not all physical comedy: there were clever lines galore (‘you look better than a telescope’) and the second half, which unexpectedly wove together all the characters into one amazingly coherent story, was simply a piece of scripting genius. Ultimately, the sketch was classic Marmite comedy – some people simply didn’t get it. But personally I wish we could turn the clock back and have Adam and the rest back in Cambridge all to ourselves. Let’s just hope the world outside the Bubble makes puts them to good use.