The Ashenden, Fiddaman, and Owen Show

Tue 15th November 2011

reviews

Christian Clarkson

at 03:17 on 16th Nov 2011

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Recent Footlights alumni Ben Ashenden, Mark Fiddaman and Alex Owen returned to the ADC for one night only, and for those of us suffering from withdrawal symptoms the show did not disappoint. In the classic sketch show format, the performance was slick and professional with some moments of brilliant acting and deliciously unexpected punchlines.

A talent of this trio is to take a formulaic comedy scenario and startlingly subvert it, and this was the premise behind some of the night's most successful sketches. One scene featured Owen refusing to forever hold his peace and opposing Ashenden and Fiddaman's marriage - only to transform into a moment of collective shock that Owen hadn't realised that his friend’s pointy hat and talking feline indicated a long-term commitment to wizardry. There was also a marvellous end to the night, when it was revealed that what had seemed like Fiddaman desperately attempting to tell a joke to two men arguing about a restaurant bill was actually his repeated salient assertion that an Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman had been sitting at their table.

Ben Ashenden was definitely the stand-out of this production, with his brilliantly varied vocal comedy and impeccable timing. The audience was charmed by his ability to combine the mundane with the unpredictably eccentric, which he used to alarming effect in the remarkable ‘cash for organs’ sketch. This was framed as a dodgy television advert and featured the memorable line “I’m so poor I’m using second-hand toilet paper … as toothpaste.” Those of us who’d seen him in previous Smokers were also pleased to see him resurrect his moronic dojo-owner character, who was amongst other things pretending to be the Queen and distributing imaginary Christmas cake.

Some moments were less successful than others. Occasionally Fiddaman felt like a spare wheel for Ashenden and Owen’s racing bike: sketches that were working perfectly well with just the two of them sometimes had to be stretched to fit him in - Owen’s ‘over-analysed premature ejaculation’ springs to mind. There were also some long, slightly clumsy sketches where a series of fundamentally sound ideas had been strung together into an unwieldy whole. The ‘missing cat’ scenario, for example - “I’m ringing about the poster asking if anyone’s seen your cat … well, I was just calling to say no, I hadn’t.” - didn’t have to descend into a confusing jumble of pop culture references (I’m counting Dickens alongside Strictly Come Dancing here). The attempt at satire with a Downing Street/Eastenders hybrid also felt a little unfocussed.

As a whole, though, the night was hugely enjoyable. I suggest that readers keep an eye on these three young comedians and make an effort to get to their next outing, whether it be at the ADC or the Apollo.

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