British Comedy Guide

Inside No. 9. Image shows from L to R: Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith. Copyright: BBC.

Inside No. 9

BBC Two comedy drama created by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith. 24 episodes (4 series), 2014 - 2018. Stars Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton.

Next new episode is on Tuesday at 10pm. Series 4, Episode 5
Catch-up on Episode 4 on BBC iPlayer   Series 2, Episode 5 is repeated on Gold tomorrow at 12:15am

Inside No. 9. Image shows from L to R: Amber (Hattie Morahan), Fred (Jaygann Ayeh), Tracey (Tanya Franks), Prince Rico (Rory Kinnear), Robert (Steve Pemberton), Henry (Reece Shearsmith), Alice (Marcia Warren), Mr Green (Bill Paterson), Colette (Helen Monks), Vince (Kevin Eldon). Copyright: BBC.

Series 4, Episode 1 - Zanzibar

Welcome to London's Hotel Zanzibar / Our varied guests have travelled from afar / Proposals, plots and prostitutes combine / It's a comedy of errors on floor nine.

Full synopsis

Rory Kinnear, Hattie Morahan, Bill Paterson, Kevin Eldon, Tanya Franks, Marcia Warren, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton are all hoping to stay the night, while Helen Monks and Jaygann Ayeh play the staff attempting to keep everything under control. Christian Henson provides the music, and the action is directed by David Kerr.

Inside No. 9. Copyright: BBC.

Inside No. 9. Henry (Reece Shearsmith). Copyright: BBC.

Inside No. 9. Robert (Steve Pemberton). Copyright: BBC.

Inside No. 9. Image shows from L to R: Alice (Marcia Warren), Robert (Steve Pemberton). Copyright: BBC.

Inside No. 9. Image shows from L to R: Henry (Reece Shearsmith), Prince Rico (Rory Kinnear). Copyright: BBC.

Inside No. 9. Image shows from L to R: Fred (Jaygann Ayeh), Colette (Helen Monks). Copyright: BBC.

Broadcast details

This episode is currently available on BBC iPlayer

Tuesday 2nd January 2018
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Guest cast
Reece Shearsmith Henry
Steve Pemberton Robert
Marcia Warren Alice
Rory Kinnear Prince Rico
Bill Paterson Mr Green
Helen Monks Colette
Kevin Eldon Vince
Tanya Franks Tracey
Hattie Morahan Amber
Jaygann Ayeh Fred
Rory Kinnear Gus
Writing team
Reece Shearsmith Writer
Steve Pemberton Writer
Production team
David Kerr Director
Adam Tandy Producer
Jon Plowman Executive Producer
Joe Randall-Cutler Editor
Dennis De Groot Production Designer
Christian Henson Composer


The scarily versatile Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith are back, turning their hands to chaotic door-slamming farce with a Shakespearean flavour. The toying with The Comedy of Errors - Rory Kinnear plays twins who unknowingly both book rooms on a hotel's busy ninth floor - and the iambic pentameter dialogue create a delightfully breathless parlour game of an episode, with the show's trademark wickedness only peeping through via a torrent of smutty wordplay. Top-hole.

Jack Seale, The Guardian, 2nd January 2018

Inside No. 9 series 4 spoiler-free review

Macabre, inventive and... emotional.

Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy, 2nd January 2018

Review - Inside No. 9: Series 4, Episode 1 - Zanzibar

Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith's comedy anthology returns with a Shakespearean twist.

Ian Wolf, On The Box, 2nd January 2018

Shearsmith & Pemberton's ode to Shakespeare is sublime

It's a sublime and intentionally shambolic ode to William Shakespeare; delivered in Bard-like verse.

Mark Butler, i Newspaper, 2nd January 2018

Inside No. 9 series 4 episode 1 review: Zanzibar

This comedy farce written in verse shows that custom cannot stale Inside No. 9's infinite variety.

Louisa Mellor, Den Of Geek, 2nd January 2018

TV Review: Inside No. 9 - Zanzibar

Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton's comedy anthology series is back and better than ever, with a new tale that is well worth your time - it's funny and clever, it even rhymes!

Anneka Honeyball, The National Student, 2nd January 2018

A triumphant return for Pemberton and Shearsmith

Is there anything to which Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith can't turn their hands?

The Telegraph, 2nd January 2018

Inside No 9 review

Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith toy entertainingly with the Bard's verse and narrative tropes.

Julia Raeside, The Guardian, 3rd January 2018

Inside No.9 review: Deliciously creepy with star cast

With the constant swapping of rooms and the rhyming, scanning dialogue it was without doubt a very clever piece.

Matt Baylis, The Daily Express, 3rd January 2018

The anthology nature of Inside No. 9 allows the duo to experiment with different styles and in the opening instalment, entitled Zanzibar, they've decided to tackle Shakespearean farce. Set in the ninth floor of the titular hotel, we're introduced to a group of guests who participate in various room swaps and cases of mistaken identity throughout the half hour running time. Based on A Comedy of Errors, one of the Bard's plays that I'm unfamiliar with, the crucial part of the plot sees Rory Kinnear take on dual roles; a powerful prince and a man about to propose to his disinterested girlfriend. Throughout the piece we're also introduced to the prince's devious bodyguard (Shearsmith), an amnesiac pensioner and her camp son (Marcia Warren and Pemberton), a suicidal Scotsman (Bill Paterson), an open-minded call girl (Tanya Franks) as well as a flippant stage hypnotist (Kevin Eldon). Providing key exposition throughout the piece are the Zanzibar's bellboy (Jaygaan Ayeh) and his chambermaid girlfriend (Helen Monks) who help to participate in the confusion. I personally thought the decision to perform all of Zanzibar in iambic pentameter would get annoying quickly but instead I relaxed into the flow and ultimately felt like the decision paid off. After the initial set-up, the gags began to flow, and I found myself laughing out loud at least three times throughout the piece thanks mainly to the quick-witted nature of the dialogue and the comic timing of the ensemble cast. Praise must go to Warren for portraying a doddery old dear who takes on a thankless task and to Kinnear for convincingly playing two very different characters. Furthermore, I felt that both Eldon and Franks shone in smaller yet vital roles and Ayeh held his own against many more established comic players. Zanzibar put me in mind of prior Inside No. 9 openers Sardines and Couchette; which also took place in a confined setting and were full of big laughs rather than moments of subtlety. However, whilst both of those instalments ended with a rather dark denouement, Zanzibar contained a rare happy ending that you won't find in many Inside No. 9 episodes. Whilst I enjoyed the experimental nature of the episode and found it kept my attention, I prefer when Pemberton and Shearsmith go a little darker with their material therefore I'm looking forward to seeing what awaits me in coming weeks as the fourth series of Inside No. 9 continues.

Matt, The Custard TV, 6th January 2018

If you've ever yearned - and let's face it, who hasn't? - for a Ray Cooney bedroom farce in iambic pentameter, a charming half-hour in which a comedy of errors plays out, with Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith's trademark mix of cleverness and filth and a host of lovely actors plays out in a hotel corridor, over half an hour, this was, sublimely, your bag.

Euan Ferguson, The Guardian, 7th January 2018

Inside No.9 review: Series Four: 'Zanizbar'

Inside No. 9's series four opener is an exhilarating diversion, a playful and fanciful delight, but as one of Pemberton & Shearsmith's most purely pleasurable 9's yet, 'Zanzibar' may be the lightest of confections but is definitely no mere trifle.

Dodo's Words, 9th January 2018

Inside No. 9 - Series 4, Episode 1, Zanzibar, preview

The brilliant Inside No. 9 has tended to be one of the hardest TV shows to write about for fear of giving away spoilers. But actually the first episode of the new series is pretty straightforward to describe so hopefully reading this will not spoil your enjoyment.

Bruce Dessau, Beyond The Joke, 29th December 2017

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