The Comeback review, Noel Coward Theatre: A winningly meta comedy caper

Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen’s delightful production has already been put on ice until London is back out of tier 3. But you would not have to be an incurable optimist to book for the resumption of its run

Paul Taylor
Wednesday 16 December 2020 12:58
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<p>Alex Owen and Ben Ashenden star in ‘The Comeback’</p>

Alex Owen and Ben Ashenden star in ‘The Comeback’

“Big fleas have little fleas/ Upon their backs to bite ’em/ And lesser fleas have ‘meta’ fleas/ And so ad infinitum.”

Or to put it in plain prose: there’s no end to the manufacture of plays that fool around, self-reflexively, with theatrical conventions. The Right Size (aka Sean Foley and Hamish McColl) kicked off the most recent craze for this kind of thing with The Play What I Wrote (2001), their affectionate meta-tribute show to Morecambe and Wise. The show spawned a subgenre. Even fans of that genre would have conceded that it might be a short step from The Play That Goes Wrong (2012) to, at least hypothetically, The Play That Went Silly and Self-Indulgent.

So it is a considerable pleasure to report that The Comeback – the first show by Sonia Friedman Productions to open in the West End since the pandemic struck and this sector had to go into the frustrations of lockdown – could be subtitled “The Play That Got It, Pretty Much, Spot On”, such is the dizzying adroitness of its meta-theatrical capers.  

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