Inside No. 9: Zanzibar. Television Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *

Cast: Jaygann Ayeh, Reece Shearsmith, Rory Kinnear, Bill Paterson, Marcia Warren, Steve Pemberton, Hattie Morahan, Helen Monks, Tanya Franks, Kevin Eldon.

It is almost impossible to get anything 100 percent right in a half hour comedy, it needs so much to go according to plan, to hit every note possible and still have the conductor enough room to prise out just a little more from the lead and the passionate soprano on the edge of the stage.

Comedy is one thing but in the realm of farce, the song has got to be even more acute, too much labour and the whole structure can fall apart quicker a hastily built wall in a hurricane; add in the wit of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton and the 90 degree turn they are able to bring to a story. It possible to believe that this particular episode of Inside No.9, Zanzibar, is arguably the strongest, most deliberately poised and achingly funny that the pair have offered yet.

The 90 degree turn that both Mr. Pemberton and Shearsmith delight in offering, is in this case the whole episode of Zanzibar being spoken in rhyming couplets, a clever skill to which Moliere himself would have been chuffed to dismantle in the finest misanthropic pursuit. A complex and demanding dedication at the best of times but in true Inside No. 9 fashion, one that was carried off with strictness of tone but beautifully delivered in spirit; this was the bard in the 21st Century, more Comedy of Errors, more Hamlet, a Twelfth Night appeal before the decorations come down.

With the quality of cast provided for this particular episode, including the great Marcia Warren, Hattie Morahan, Helen Monks and the terrific Rory Kinnear as the separated twins Gus and Prince Rico, Zanzibar is an impressive and powerful tale of mistaken identity, of genius farce and a high point in the show’s history.

In an age where farce is often only to be found in the theatre or taking seats in Parliament, Zanzibar is the place to go to find it in its purest, most brilliant form.

Ian D. Hall