DISCLOSURE – TICKETS TO SEE THE SHOW WERE GIFTED TO THE REVIEWER AND GUEST FOR THE PURPOSES OF WRITING THE REVIEW
Reviewed by Jenny Bray
This show is based on the original hit TV sitcom, famous in the 90s. All the remaining cast have reunited for this tour; ‘Drop the Dead Donkey The Reawakening’. Stephen Tompkinson as Damien, Neil Pearson as Dave, Susannah Doyle as Joy, Robert Duncan as Gus, Ingrid Lacey as Helen, Jeff Rawle as George and Victoria Wicks as Sally. The only people missing are Henry Davenport, played by David Swift, who died in 2016 and Haydn Gwynne, who played Alex Pates, who died in 2023. Instead of attempting to replace these characters they wrote them out of the stage version, with occasional references to each. The stage show has also been written by the same people who wrote the original scripts; Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin. The original tv show first aired when I was at primary school and I don’t recall watching many episodes of the 6 series that continued through to 1998 so this was mainly new to me.
As each character first joined the stage there was a big round of applause. As more characters join each other, there is a lot of profanity between them as they all recognise each other having not seen each other for many, many years. They have all been headhunted to work for a new tv news company called Truth News. No-one knows who owns it or why they were chosen and they were all seemingly called by people from different countries so are unclear who has recruited them.
The cast is small, with just the seven original actors and two new ones. Therefore, they all have a lot of stage time. I particularly liked Neil Pearson’s character, Dave. When Sally and Damien front the on air desk, Sally is told to be controversial, so comes out with some real corkers about people. Watch out for Sally’s agent when she appears.
There were lots of topical one liners, including reference to one of today’s news stories, political quips and some quite close to call lines that some of the younger generation may be offended by (which was referred to). This includes weather presenter Rita (Kerena Jagpal), a 19 year old ‘non white’ and ‘young’ person brought in to cover the race and age side of the equality act protected characteristics as reeled off by Head of HR, Joy. Damien covers the disabled aspect, Helen the lesbian characteristic and all the original cast as old! There are several references to Artificial Intelligence and Gus is ruled by how popular the show is proving to be on social media and by what the algorithms are suggesting he do next.
The second new character that is introduced is Mairead (Julia Hills), who is a reporter. Helen already knows her, having worked with her for two and a half years and lived in the same flat with her, yet Mairead doesn’t recognise her. The two of them have a couple of amusing spats.
The set remains largely consistent, as a news room office, including a desk for the show to be aired from, background office desks and glass screens all round the office. There is a large ‘TRUTH’ lit up in the background and a talking, voice activated, coffee machine in the foreground which was very compliant for everyone except poor George. There is a large screen that drops down on occasion, mainly to show many scorning tweets about the show, even before it has even aired. This screen is also used when linking to interview Sir Trevor McDonald
The Lyceum is well signposted with plenty of parking nearby. Remember to pick up your ticket for the 1st hour free at the Charles Street Q park car park if you park there. The staff there are very friendly and helpful.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this show. A lot of the audience, who had clearly been big fans of the tv series, absolutely loved it and laughed at some points that I didn’t, so I guess were linked to the original show. Dimples featured a few times.
I did laugh at most of the many gags and satire. There were lots of areas where the quips were on point and up to date but some of it also seemed a little dated although, as mentioned, may have linked to some of the original 90s puns. The show is brand new and currently due to run until June. I enjoyed it but I wasn’t left amazed by it. As it is a show for fans of the original tv series I expect this will do well
Tickets cost from £15 to £45.50
Drop the Dead Donkey the Reawakening is on at Sheffield Lyceum between 6th and 10th February 2024.
For more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the Box Office on 0114 249 6000
Sheffield Theatres, 55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1DA