★★★★ ‘Is what it says – Dead Funny!’
With a stellar comedy cast, you would expect that they would have you rolling in the aisles very quickly? Whilst I would certainly say there are times of perfect comedic timing and slapstick humour there was without a doubt something I wasn’t expecting at all? Written by Terry Johnson this play is deeper than you would expect.
Eleanor (Katherine Parkinson) wants a child. Richard (Rufus Jones) would oblige if he could, but he’s too busy running the Dead Funny Society. When British comedy heroes Frankie Howerd and Benny Hill turn up their toes in the same week the Society gather for a celebration of hilarity and laughter. But Eleanor’s grin masks a grimace.
When your marriage is deader than either Morecambe or Wise it’s hard to see the funny side of things.
Thanks to the Stagedoor app which you can download by clicking on here I attended Dead Funny at the Vaudeville Theatre with many other London Theatre Bloggers. The front of house check your tickets and say “welcome to 1992”. Much like 2016 has been unkind to us in taking legends, 1992 took, amongst others, comedy heroes Frankie Howerd and Benny Hill. The Dead Funny Society meets to celebrate the lives of such heroes but in doing this their focus is not where it should be, and some might say life is actually passing them by.
Katherine Parkinson as Eleanor really is the focal point of this show, her role grabs at your heartstrings and whilst her comic timing is ever-present, its her ability to bring you crushingly down when you feel her pain. Brian (Steve Pemberton) has a secret but is it as unnoticeable as he thinks? What is adorable is the endearing affable nature of someone who just wants to be part of something that he values. Both Ralf Little, Emily Berrington along with Rufus Jones all interact with each other wonderfully and I’m surprised at some points they didn’t have a fit of the giggles, I know I did, such is their professionalism.
In parts the play did feel a little dated but then it’s supposed to? I would say that the humour is very dry and if you didn’t live around that time or appreciate the golden age of comedy legends, then it might be an idea to do a little research before you see this production. This will enhance your enjoyment all the more and make you feel part of the society as well.
Sometimes it’s nice to not always get what you expect, this play is tender and challenging in a way which surprised me. Yes it’s Dead Funny (sorry I couldn’t resist) but it has a heart too. These five actors perfectly cast, draw out every bit of comic timing required but there is more to this play than meets the eye, which made a refreshing change.
Wry humour, slapstick comedy, with a few skeletons in the closet, poignancy and a heart, what’s not to enjoy about that?