Drop the Dead Donkey The Reawakening! at The Alexandra, Birmingham - Review

Drop the Dead Donkey The Reawakening! at The Alexandra, Birmingham - Review


Posted 2024-04-17 by Andy Colemanfollow

Tue 16 Apr 2024 - Sat 20 Apr 2024

TV satire Drop The Dead Donkey ran on Channel 4 for six series from 1990 till 1998 – and now most of the gang are back, reunited on stage for a new show penned by original writers Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin.

The final TV episode saw the GlobeLink News station closed down, but, three decades later, anonymous investors have set up Truth News and recruited some of the original GlobeLink News team. That’s the premise of the stage show, Drop the Dead Donkey The Reawakening! , which sees the return of Stephen Tompkinson as reporter Damien Day, Jeff Rawle as editor George Dent, Neil Pearson as sub-editor Dave Charnley, Victoria Wicks as newsreader Sally Smedley, Susannah Doyle as Joy Merryweather, Ingrid Lacey as deputy editor Helen Cooper, and Robert Duncan as former GlobeLink CEO Gus Hedges. There is also the introduction of two new characters, Mairead, played by Julia Hills and Rita the intern weather presenter, portrayed by Kerena Jagpal.

Reunited: The cast of Drop The Dead Donkey The Awakening!

On opening night each actor was greeted like an old friend by the Alexandra audience. After a nostalgic clip from series one is seen on a big screen above the stage, we discover what the characters have been doing for the past 30 years. Dave has stopped drinking and gambling, Joy has moved into HR, George has a North Korean girlfriend, Sally has been working on a downmarket game show, and Damien is confined to a wheelchair after an on-the-job accident.

They come together to try to make the new TV channel, Truth News, a success, and, they admit, take home a fat salary. But they are faced with a media world that has changed greatly in the last 30 years. Algorithms are used to decide news priorities, deep fake videos are circulating so there is uncertainty about what is false news and what is real news, and there is social media to contend with.

Behaviour and language in the workplace has had to change, something that Rita (aged 19) is quick to point out when certain team members fall back into their 1990s habits.

Sadness: Jeff Rawle and Ingrid Lacey

Stephen Tompkinson is superb as the former foreign correspondent, who uses dodgy reporting methods but is desperate to escape the office and get back in the field. Neil Pearson and Jeff Rawle bring a touch of sadness to their roles – Dave doesn’t seem as much fun as he used to be, and George is fixated on his girlfriend, to the detriment of just about everything else.

Susannah Doyle is the one having the time of her life as Joy Merryweather, promoted to Head of HR. Surly as a PA in the TV series, she now enjoys wielding real power over her colleagues. There’s still a hint of melancholy, however.

The storyline is thin, but it is really only there to anchor a torrent of topical gags and quips, which is what we expect from writers Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin. At times, I felt I was watching an episode of Have I Got News For You, a TV show also produced by Hat Trick, the company behind Drop The Dead Donkey.

Truth News: Stephen Tompkinson, Robert Duncan, Jeff Rawle, Neil Pearson and Victoria Wicks

Among current news items getting a mention are the Post Office scandal, Liz Truss’s book, Prince Andrew, Lee Anderson, William Wragg and VAR. The biggest laugh came when Sally Smedley read out the name of Chinese President “XI JINPING” as “President Eleven”.

Behind the laughs, the writers highlight the dangers of false news and the chase for viewers, rather than the pursuit of truth. It’s something we should all be aware of.

Drop The Dead Donkey The Reawakening! is at Birmingham's Alexandra until April 20, 2024.

Rating: 4 out of 5


#theatre reviews
#performing Arts
283594 - 2024-04-16 10:13:51


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