Drop The Dead Donkey
The Reawakening

For fans of the original 90’s TV show, this new stage production billed as Drop The Dead Donkey – The Reawakening has every component many grew to love, including most of the original cast members who each received their own individual round of applause as they appeared at varying intervals at the start of the show.  The nostalgia kicked in and we were once again ready to dive into the utter chaos of a TV Newsroom.

The premise of the show sees old work colleagues brought back together 30 years after their time at Globelink News to create brand-new, no-nonsense news TV channel, Truth News.  With original Chief Executive Gus (Robert Duncan) at the helm, it wasn’t long before the mayhem commenced, and the hilarity ensued.  Show favourites George (Jeff Rawle) and Dave (Neil Pearson) are the first faces we are reintroduced to as they gather around the state-of-the-art coffee machine with a mind of its own.  Helen (Ingrid Lacey), Sally Smedley (Victoria Wicks), Damien (Stephen Tompkinson) and Joy (Susannah Doyle), along with Gus (Robert Duncan) completed the line up of the original cast from the TV show which ran between 1990-1998, receiving a BAFTA for Best Comedy Award in 1994.  New cast members Rita (Kerena Jagpal) and Mairead (Julia Hills) added a new dimension to the proceedings ready to deliver the news, regardless of whether it was fake or not.

Each original cast member slotted right back into character, and it felt like you were watching old friends on stage.  There was a great sense of familiarity, and you knew exactly what to expect from everyone.  Now, the nature of the news wouldn’t look out of place on current channels such as GB News, and in the advent of fake news and sensationalism in the press, the Truth News team very much have their eye on the ball.  There were many up to date references, swipes at all political parties, the Royal Family and the ‘woke’ culture that perhaps is all too familiar. This is a humorous look at how the press in this country operate, whether you agree with it or not.  Certainly not a show for anyone who is offended easily!

Chief Executive Gus is very much trying to step up to the mark and work in a new digital world ruled by algorithms and to highlight how completely mad the world of journalism can get in order to deliver ‘shock’ news, however in his mind he is completely fulfilling the desire to provide a service worth shouting about. As Truth News delivers its first ever car-crash broadcast, we read a mass of tweets by members of the public via a large LED screen which is utilised throughout, throwing many parallels to the way people discuss every event known to man these days, via social media. 

It was a delight to see how the characters had evolved over the years and it goes without saying that the wealth of experience between the original cast was a joy to watch and made me feel like I was in very good hands.  The funny one liners and the witty office banter was fully engaging thanks to the writing by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, both of whom penned the original TV series.  It was realism at its finest and no subject was off limits, regardless of how tight your toes curled at points!

Obviously there were two original cast members missing from the stage, the incredible Haydn Gwynne and David Swift, so it was so touching to see the whole cast paying tribute to two actors sorely missed by displaying their images above the stage during the curtain call.

With a brief, electrifying cameo by Sir Trevor McDonald, a titan of the journalism world, to its sharp wit satirising the media industry, I'm very glad that this particular show has been awoken to delight audiences all over again.

This show was reviewed on the 16th April 2024 at The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham where it runs until the 20th April 2024.  Tickets available here: Drop the Dead Donkey Tickets | The Alexandra, Birmingham in Birmingham | ATG Tickets

Full tour details can be found here: Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening (dropdeaddonkey.co.uk)

Review written by Emma Rowley


Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

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