Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre


By Sue Dean, April 2024

The stage revival of the iconic TV series triumphantly re-emerges thirty years after its original launch. The GlobeLink News Team, portrayed by the original cast, breathes new life into the legendary comedy, engaging audiences in the fast-paced, high-pressure world of 24-hour news.

The reunion of Susannah Doyle, Robert Duncan, Ingrid Lacey, Neil Pearson, Jeff Rawle, Stephen Tompkinson and Victoria Wicks is a theatrical call-to-arms. It’s remarkable to witness these actors, now esteemed in their careers, reprising roles that contributed significantly to their rise in the industry.

“Dynamic and responsive”

Adapting television hits to the stage is often challenging, with many previous attempts falling short of expectations. But, Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening is a success from curtain up. The set, a modern, gleaming amalgamation of glass and metal, depicts a bustling TV newsroom, complete with a giant screen displaying real-time social media interactions. This contemporary touch enriches the stage, drawing the audience into a world where news and social commentary are interwoven.

The script, penned by acclaimed writing duo Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, maintains the original series’ spirit while deftly incorporating contemporary issues and humour. It’s a dynamic and responsive script, seemingly evolving in real-time, reflecting the frenetic pace of modern newsrooms.

Humour remains the production’s backbone, with a plethora of jokes and witty one-liners. These are skilfully delivered by a cast whose chemistry and timing is impeccable. The costumes, much like the set, play a pivotal role in defining each character’s personality.

“Brilliant return”

Although the plot is slender, the sheer brilliance of the actors transforms each scene into comedic joy. Jeff Rawle and Neil Pearson, in particular, exhibit a compelling chemistry that, if younger actors were delivering it, would hint at a potential future as a comedy duo. Stephen Tompkinson – always a compelling performer – portrays Damien with deadpan earnestness, his comedy timing absolutely on-the-nose.

The enthusiastic reception of each character onto the stage, followed by a standing ovation at the conclusion, testifies to the enduring love and nostalgia the audience holds for the original series.

Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening is a brilliant return of a beloved classic, skillfully adapted for the contemporary stage. Its satirical take on the media industry, coupled with a strong ensemble cast, makes it an essential watch for fans of British comedy and newcomers alike.

Whether you’re a fan of the original TV series or not, this stage conversion stands on its own merits, delivering a hilarious and thoroughly entertaining experience, that honours the original without being in its shadow. It is, without a doubt, a production well worth seeing.

‘Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening’ is at Leeds Grand Theatre until 13th April


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