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Review: Drop The Dead Donkey at The Lowry is ‘relevant, sharp and relentless’

The iconic 90s TV show depicting life in a TV news room has been reimagined for the stage at the Lowry.
Drop the Dead Donkey

In the modern era of fake news and ethically questionable journalism, there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to bring the BAFTA award-winning show and its pioneering brand of satire back from retirement after 30 years and onto the stage for the first time.

There truly is an embarrassment of riches to draw inspiration from in the modern age.

Drop the Dead Donkey at the Lowry

Drop The Dead Donkey
The team reunites

In many ways, the more things change, the more they stay the same… John Major and Tony Blair are replaced with their modern counterparts, Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer as the brunt of many of the jokes; and the Royal family are of course just as enticing and fertile a target for ridicule as ever.

At the moment, The Lowry is offering a great deal on tickets with up to £14 off the price. You can find out more by clicking here.

Rather, it is the expert way in which the writers adapt to take aim at the modern news climate and the insidious role of social media, engagement-driven content, Artificial Intelligence algorithms, click-bait and celebrity obsession which is most impressive.

Just like the TV show – which was written and filmed close to transmission to provide a sense of realism: the stage show takes aim at this veritable smorgasbord of topics… and doesn’t pull its punches.

BAFTA award-winning comedy series

Drop The Dead Donkey

It features the return of an almost complete cast and creative team which took home the BAFTA award for best comedy series in 1994, except for Haydn Gwynne and David Swift, who sadly passed away in the interim.

Writing credits return for show creators Andy Hamilton (DTDD, Not the Nine O’clock News) and Guy Jenkin (DTDD, Spitting Image), who had the unenviable task of sifting through the quagmire that is the post-truth world we find ourselves in today in the wake of Covid-19, Brexit, and Donald Trump.

Directing credit goes to Derek Bond (Dragons and Mythical Beasts).

The GlobeLink News team, after spending the past 25 years, suddenly find themselves mysteriously thrust back together in the employ of the ‘Truth News’ network, but the format is essentially the same.

Robert Duncan at Gus Hedges

Chief Executive, Gus Hedges (Robert Duncan) sees the new venture as a chance at redemption following the failure of GlobeLink News and it is hilarious to see him slowly slide into despondency as the whole thing, predictably, goes down like the Hindenburg.

The adorably inept editor, George (Jeff Rawle) is even more unprepared for his role in a modern newsroom than he was in the 90s and provides a lot of heart to the show.

He is also cursed with bad luck and is involved in a lot of the more slapstick moments in the show, such as his ongoing battle
with the new, AI-controlled coffee machine.

The misanthropic HR head, Joy Merryweather (Susannah Doyle) is ferocious in her disdain for her colleagues and is keen to resume her campaign of terror against them before returning to her private island in the Outer Hebrides.

Reformed serial misogynist, gambler, and alcoholic Dave Charnley (Neil Pearson) is keen to impress upon his colleagues his newfound virtuousness, but all is not as it seems.

Victoria Wicks as Sally Smedley

The ruthlessly ambitious co-anchor, Sally Smedley (Victoria Wicks) will burn anyone who attempts to stand in her way to the top – or from the bottom, and is at constant loggerheads with her fellow newsreader, Damien Day (Stephen Tompkinson), who is as unscrupulous a journalist as there ever was – ever willing to create his own news stories if it adds to their impact.

Assistant editor, Helen Cooper (Ingrid Lacy) is perhaps the most ‘stable’ and conscientious of the old guard, but perhaps not always to her benefit – a fact that is not lost on her.

Finally, the intern, and weatherperson, Rita (Kerena Jagpal), keen to find a footing in the world of journalism, finds herself amongst the band of misfits, providing the moral and ethical counterbalance to her morally bankrupt colleagues.

It all has the effect of adding a measure of verisimilitude to its newsroom setting – albeit a completely madcap and zany one.

Peter McKintosh’s amazing set design

The set design by Peter McKintosh is wonderful in its fully believable newsroom setting, and the lighting, sound, and video design by Peter Mumford, Ella Wahlström, and Dan Light, respectively all add a wonderful sense of style and believability to the busy newsroom aesthetics.

The jokes are relevant, sharp, and relentless throughout the show and the performances are all top-notch.

In journalism lingo, a ‘dead donkey’ is usually a news story of little or no significance which can be ‘dropped’ in favour of a more meaningful one, should it present itself in the lead-up to the publication or broadcasting of a newspaper or news program.

Thankfully, but perhaps not surprisingly, this stage revival of the hit 90s channel 4 satirical comedy, Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening, is more than deserving of any headlines and praise it may receive throughout its run. A triumph!

Drop the Dead Donkey tickets

Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening runs at The Lowry from the 13th to the 17th of February with tickets starting at £27.50.

The Lowry has an offer on at the moment. You can get up to £14 off tickets – find out more by clicking here

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