Shropshire Star

Review: Dead Donkey reawakened for 21st century

Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening!, Birmingham Alexandra Theatre

Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening!

Things are looking up for George Dent. Granted, he is struggling with the AI-controlled coffee machine, but his legendary bad luck appears to be at an end. Not only has he found love with a North Korean refugee called Suke, he has been head-hunted for a lucrative role as managing editor of an exciting new television news channel.

What could possibly go wrong? Well just about everything, of course. It is George, after all. Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin have reunited the cast of Drop the Dead Donkey, the hit newsroom-based sitcom of the 1990s which won a hatful of awards for its clever blend of topical gags and madcap-antics from the dysfunctional reporting team. George is now heading a cringe-makingly amateurish 24-hour news channel which makes GlobeLink News look like a well-oiled Swiss watch. But, as he keeps reminding himself, the money is too good to turn down, even if he is unsure where it is coming from.

A riot of topical humour and wry commentary on the modern media landscape – not to mention the current preoccupation with half-baked artificial intelligence – there are no shortage of laughs, particularly vacuous newscaster Sally Smedley's attempt to pronounce the name of the Chinese president. And many hacks will raise a knowing eyebrow at Truth News's use of a data-driven algorithm to prioritise different new stories. For the majority of those in the audience, this was a trip down memory lane, a throwback to the days when satire actually meant making people laugh rather than scoring political points. But there was still plenty to entertain those who may not remember the original series, particularly the ham-fisted attempts to tick diversity boxes.

And as Truth News crashes around George's ears, he can at least count on the support of his old friend Dave, who has put his immature, feckless ways behind him and is behaving like... well, a 60-year-old adolescent.

Perhaps, inevitably, the transformation from TV sitcom to stage show loses a bit of the sharpness, as the actors address the audience rather than each other. Even so, one can't imagine any of the strong midweek crowd would have gone home feeling short-changed.

Of course it's not a remotely accurate portrayal of a real newsroom – for one thing, the one thing you never see anybody do is actually work on a news story. But then again, it never was. Besides, that would be to miss the point: it's fun, and that is something which seems to be in short supply at the moment.

Andy Hamilton has ruled out bringing back Drop The Dead Donkey back as a television series. Which seems a tad disappointing, because it's a sight funnier than much else that passes for comedy at the moment.

*Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening! runs at Birmingham Alexandra Theatre until Saturday.