Monday, May 20

Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening – The Lowry

The 90s were famous for a lot of things such as Britpop, Cool Brittania and the Teletubbies and casting an acerbic eye on the news at that time was an award-winning sitcom ready to take a satirical swipe at the great and the good of the day. Recorded close to transmission the gags were bang up to date and like Spitting Image and Have I Got News For You, it was must see TV for satire junkies.

Aside from its topicality the show had a great bunch of misfit characters who were, like in any great sitcom, trapped together, in this case in a news station. It had a bumbling editor, George (Jeff Rawle), a womanising gambling addict, Dave (Neil Pearson), the attention seeking Damien (Stephen Tompkinson), perfectionist Helen (Ingrid Lacey) and the sociopathic Joy (Susannah Doyle). It was a workplace sitcom but with topical gags set in the cutthroat world of journalism.

As a journalist myself I have met many people like these characters in newsrooms and Gus (Robert Duncan), the management jargon nonsense speaking idiot at the top reminds me of many a boss I have worked for in my time.

At the moment there are many old shows reinventing themselves as stage shows. John Cleese has written a version of Fawlty Towers which will open in the West End soon, The Fast Show is about to go on tour as is a musical version of Only Fools and Horses. The demand for these shows, like watching an old pop band, is partly based on nostalgia and they all have a special place in peoples’ hearts. However, that will only take you so far, the show still has to be good.

Whilst it has to said that the plot was quite straightforward, there were some terrific gags and it was very funny. In its satirical sights were all these odd news channels that have sprung up recently such as GB News and Talk TV. It made fun of their amateurishness and as they said, “Their programmes could be hosted by a load of chimps and Jacob Rees-Mogg.”

It also had a great deal to say about the modern desire for algorithmic journalism, artificial intelligence (AI) and the dangers of deep fakes, as well as the move towards a news service based not on truth but on lies – as a way to get more ‘likes’ on social media.

Gus brings the old band back together to work for a new channel, Truth News. There are shadowy backers, but the money is good. A young person, Rita (Kerena Jagpal) is brought in and she is shocked at how un-PC they all are, particularly the wonderfully vain and snobbish Sally Smedley (Victoria Wicks). It is interesting how the young person becomes the puritan in today’s world.

The actors seemed to slip back into these characters with ease and apart from a few grey hairs here and there we could be back in the 90s. They all went on from Drop The Dead Donkey to have wonderful careers, as did the writers Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin. They created a wonderful TV show, and this is a nice coda to it and an extremely pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

Fans of the show will love it and there are enough good jokes in it for everyone. Never mind the donkey it is well worth dropping everything to go and see this show.

It continues at The Lowry until Saturday 17th February – It is on tour around the country until June.

Reviewer: Adam Williams

Reviewed: 13th February 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.