Theatre Review: Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening

Wednesday 24 April 2024
reading time: min, words

The Globelink News team from Channel 4's 1990's newsroom sitcom are back three decades later for an outing on the stage...

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When I was a teenager growing up in the nineties, the 1960s didn’t so much seem like a different decade as a completely different universe. Now I’m a 40-something in 2024 and the mid-nineties are as far away from 2024 as that ‘other world’ once was then. Eeek!

So it might be fair to assume that most of our readers will have never even heard of Drop The Dead Donkey, a newsroom-based Channel 4 sitcom that ran over 6 series from 1990-98. It was always likely to make you laugh, but it’s kept a relatively low profile since, perhaps because other news-based comedy shows like The Day Today (1994), Brasseye (1997-2001) and Have I Got News For You (1990 – present) shared similar ground and garnered more critical and mainstream acclaim.

However, from the moment I first saw a poster for this new stage show it raised some definite nostalgia vibes in me. Truth is that it’s been decades since I last thought of the characters of Gus (Robert Duncan), George (Jeff Rawle), Helen (Ingrid Lacey), Sally (Victoria Wicks), Damian (Stephen Tompkinson), Dave (Neil Pearson) and Joy (Susannah Doyle). So it’s a pleasure to spend two hours in their company once again and see how the creators, Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, have chosen to develop them since their last outing in 1998.

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I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but the above team are thrust back together in a brave new world of modern-day broadcasting on a new TV station called Truth News. The media industry has seen a lot of disruptive change in those decades since. How will the characters cope with the rise of social media, technology and the ‘post-truth’ landscape that news media operate in now? 

It’s warming to note the entire original cast has come back together rather than needing to re-cast any of the roles. The only absences are Henry (David Swift) and Alex (Haydn Gwynne), two originals who have since passed away. Both receive sensitive mentions during the show. There are also two new characters in the show, Rita (Kerena Jagpal) and Mairead (Julia Hills). Both of them serve important functions in the plot and the actors cope admirably with coming in as new parts to an established family.

Mention needs to go to those who imagined and created the set, which is glorious in a garish GB News kind of way. The surround is the clear glass, slick black furniture and hotdesks of a newsroom, with a broadcast screen above them offering both flashbacks to the original show and a parody reel of vitriolic social media comments.  

All in all if you have fond memories of the original series you won’t be disappointed with a night out at Drop The Dead Donkey: The Awakening. In fact you'll probably come home and then start rewatching the old episodes on 4OD like I did. Damian in the burning fields anyone..?  

Drop The Dead Donkey: The Re-Awakening is showing at Theatre Royal Nottingham until Saturday 27 April. 

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