Arts & Culture

Theatre Review: Drop the Dead Donkey at Leeds Grand Theatre

DROP THE DEAD DONKEY (The reawakening) a hit Channel 4 show that launched in 1990 is now on stage at the Leeds Grand Theatre.

Toni and Jon Malin went to review the show…

So after more than 30 years since it was last aired on the silver screen has it made the transition from TV to stage successfully?

The stage play is co-written by the original writers Andy Hamilton, (Drop the dead donkey, Outnumbered) and Guy Jenkins ( Drop the dead donkey, Not the nine o’clock news) giving their humour and satirical twist to fairly recent events.

The original cast members of the TV show were there on stage, Stephen, Tomkinson (Damien), Neil Pearson (Dave), Susanna Doyle (Joy), Robert Duncan (Gus), Ingrid Lacey (Helen), Jeff Rawls (George), and Victoria Wicks(Sally). Also the new intern/weathergirl Rita (Kerena Jagpal).

Each cast member received rapturous applause when they entered the stage for the first time albeit they were somewhat bewildered and bemused of their new workplace surroundings.

The characters bring their own incompetencies to their various jobs on the news team, as well as being somewhat disgruntled with their position in the team. They are plunged, seemingly cluelessly into the cut-throat world of a modern 24 hour newsroom, along with having to get to grips with modern technology, such as AI and social media. Notably one of the biggest challenges of all is the temperamental voice activated office coffee machine.

As the old employees of GLOBELINK NEWS, arrive, one by one for the first day at their new employer, TRUTH news, they are not entirely happy to see each other and openly express this as it dawns on them they have been reunited by Gus.

The now wheelchair bound Damian bemoans: “It’s the same bunch of losers who held me back all those years ago.”

The modern up to date office of TRUTH news now delivers top stories that have been churned out by an algorithm and not hapless George who is reassured by Gus he will be “in as much charge as he ever was before.”

Joy, who has been given a HR role, which she is not at all suitable for, gives the ensemble of new recruits a series of warnings culminating with her stance on bullying exclaiming “if you partake in bullying make sure there are no witnesses because she doesn’t want to deal with the paperwork! Her unspoken parts delivered with such meaning and humour are not to be missed.

There are some moments of hilarity when Dave chucks Damien out of his wheelchair as he is suspicious about his disability. The reference to North Korean president Xi during the first TRUTH news broadcast is genius.

They manage to slander Sir David Attenborough and Sir Trevor McDonald’s part is shocking to say the least. Other high profile figures are mentioned as being part of some of the cast’s employments since they were all last together.

You are treated to the expected incompetency of the cast from the original show, where Gus is unperturbed by anything as he is overexcited by the audience figures, which he cries are spectacular as the public are seemingly glued to their tv’s – more likely in disbelief at how awful the launch has been.

The X (formerly twitter) feeds that were shown on the screen needed some more thought or content as it was on a loop showing the same comments by the same author, but still quite funny.

The unfolding mess and chaos makes many of the team consider quitting, but then they are stuck with the dilemma that the pay is really good. One person not getting a good salary as the weather girl Rita; Who is being paid, as Gus tells them in the currency of experience, an experience, she won’t get anywhere else.

If you’re a fan of the original sitcom from the 1990s, this a must-see. Amongst the audience there were people roaring with laughter at the slightest joke, quip or innuendo, others seemed mystified at the bizarre goings on at TRUTH news.

The show runs until April 13th at the Leeds Grand theatre. I don’t think you will be disappointed. Oh and yes, in my opinion it has made the transition from screen to stage remarkably well.


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