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Drop The Dead Donkey at Theatre Royal Brighton | Review

This is SO funny” said an audience member behind me during the interval: and it is! The original Drop The Dead Donkey sitcom ran on Channel 4 television from 1990 for five series, set in the offices of ‘GlobeLinkNews’, a fictional company. Recorded close to transmission it made use of contemporary news events to give the show a great sense of realism, and I was lucky enough to chat briefly with one of the writers, Andy Hamilton, before the show, He admitted to being there to “tweak” the play by adding in last minute “gags“, such as a few relating to a recently elected MP! Together with his co-writer, Guy Jenkin, the show has been updated thirty years to the present day where TRUTH TV is about to start broadcasting.
Drop The Dead Donkey
For some reason the same people who wrecked GlobeLink have been contracted, at enormous salaries, to run this news station. There is Gus Hedges, as ineffective as he ever was, and still played with great ineffectiveness by Robert Duncan. Then there is the previous station’s editor, George Dent, still a hypochondriac, acted by Jeff Rawle. Dave Charnley, the general dogsbody still inhabits the same role, but says he has given up women, gambling and alcohol. It is a real pleasure to see Neil Pearson in this part – so relaxed and laid back, but so amusing!

Damien Day, GlobeLink’s star field reporter, and previously trying to make all his stories as sensational as possible (look out for the teddy bear), is still in the hands of Stephen Tompkinson, a very watchable actor with a great sense of timing, as indeed all the cast have. In fact, one of the real pleasures of the evening was, as another audience member said, to sit in your seat and feel safe, knowing that you were in the hands of true masters of their craft: their craft being that of making people laugh!

Ultra-efficient Helen (Ingrid Lacey) is still there, still being ultra-efficient, as is Sally Smedley, in the hands of Victoria Wicks: as ‘news anchor’ trying to grow old gracefully BUT (spoiler alert) actually being replaced during the course of the evening! This could have something to do with Sir Trevor McDonald who also appears – briefly! No expense has been spared!!

Joy, whose name is not exactly apt, is once again in the hands of Susannah Doyle, and she still fails to live up to her name!

Others in this highly talented ensemble cast include Julia Hills, and Kerena Jagpal as the ‘intern’ (and therefore not being paid) just out of school, ‘weather girl’.

The writing is witty, the situations often totally unbelievable, yet we do believe them, and the evening passes in a flash, leaving us, as all good theatre should, wanting more!! Derek Bond’s direction and designer Peter Mackintosh’s set and costumes greatly add to the mayhem, as do Dan Light’s videos. I didn’t think they wrote plays like this anymore and am so glad to have been proved wrong: it is an evening where you can just be entertained and laugh until you cry.

The First Night full house at Brighton included few people under the age of fifty, and it is probably much more enjoyable for those who remember the original TV series, but a senior Theatre Royal Brighton employee, who confided that she was two years of age when the programme was first broadcast, admitted to enjoying it hugely, as did I and, judging by the continual laughter and applause, the rest of the house!

It is very highly recommended for a good night out. If you saw and enjoyed the series on TV all those years ago, do try to see this – and if you are unable to beg, borrow or steal a ticket for this week’s run it is touring until June, when it visits ATG’s Richmond Theatre for the second time (and at other venues), having more than sold out when it began its tour.

Unfortunately, I am only allowed to award it…

5 Star Rating

Review by John Groves

Starring the original smash-hit TV series cast members Susannah Doyle, Robert Duncan, Ingrid Lacey, Neil Pearson, Jeff Rawle, Stephen Tompkinson and Victoria Wicks. The iconic BAFTA and EMMY award-winning comedy Drop The Dead Donkey is reimagined for the stage in this brand-new topical commentary on the cutthroat world of 24 hours news.

Drop the Dead Donkey is at Theatre Royal Brighton from Tuesday 5th March, 2024 to Saturday 9th March, 2024.

View all shows booking now at Theatre Royal Brighton.

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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