Dead Funny | Review
A homage to Classic British Comedy
Dead Funny, a revival of Terry Johnson’s 1994 play, celebrates the lives of great British comics Benny Hill and Frankie Howerd, who, having just passed away in the same week, unite our five characters in mourning, in their Dead Funny Society.
Despite these comedy greats belonging to a different generation, from a modern perspective, none of the slapstick humour and references are lost as Johnson’s intelligent writing and directing of this piece almost has a timeless humour. Even though it is set only 24 years ago in 1992, this still has the feel of a period piece, which reflects how majorly society has changed from the Golden Age of TV to today, and how these huge names in comedy seem to belong to a completely different world now.
The silly classic jokes are juxtaposed well with the contemporary setting, the show doesn’t take itself too seriously and the audience were belly-laughing throughout. The effect of this emphasises the tragic undertones of the piece. It actually deals with the heartbreak of a failing marriage, unnoticed love, deceipt and belittlement, but then spins it on its head back to the blanket of instant humour which packs even more of a dramatic punch.
As it’s all set in one living room it was pivotal to have a stellar cast, as the play is very character and persona heavy. Fortunately the cast of five were tremendous on stage, each bouncing off of each other to great effect. The star role of Eleanor was played by Katherine Parkinson who was great, her typical wry sense of humour came through and juxtaposed the groups 90’s style of slapstick comedy, she reflected a bitterness in us all and allowed a fresh dry perspective on this style of silly humour which a more modern audience would appreciate. The talented ensemble also included Steve Pemberton as Brian, Ralf Little as Nick, Emily Berrington as Lisa and Rufus Jones as Richard, all of whom were excellent and were spot on with comical timing.
The opening scene of the production sets the tone as Richard lies naked on the floor, his wife Eleanor attempts to get “sexual” as per their marriage counsellors guidance, but of course, as soon as she goes to touch his private area – the doorbell rings. It reflects their dying stagnant marriage in a painfully hilarious way. And this silliness ensues throughout, Brian lays down custard pies, joking “don’t worry, we won’t be throwing them in anyone’s faces” to which of course by the end of the act, the entire cast and set are completely covered in custard, trifle and doing the Benny Hill chase.
This is the type of production that is so important to modern society in the state of our current affairs, it provides a feel good experience, deals with some difficult subjects, but does it in an upbeat style that provides a perfect 2 plus hours of entertainment and escapism that I would highly recommend.
Reviewer : Stephen Sheldrake
Dead funny runs at the Vaudeville Theatre until 4th February 2017. Buy Tickets Here