REVIEW: TV comedy Drop The Dead Donkey reawakens at Milton Keynes Theatre

Breaking news… the truth is out there! And it’s all thanks to the GlobeLink TV team from award-winning ’90s comedy Drop The Dead Donkey who have arrived on the Milton Keynes Theatre stage.
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It’s been 30 years since the launch of the popular series on Channel 4 – a show I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never got around to watching, despite working in the media industry for decades.

Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening! stars original cast members Stephen Tompkinson (Damien), Neil Pearson (Dave), Susannah Doyle (Joy), Robert Duncan (Gus), Ingrid Lacey (Helen), Jeff Rawle (George), and Victoria Wicks (Sally).

Their characters, flawed in so many way, are plunged into the cut-throat world of modern 24-hour news gathering, social media and, the biggest challenge of all, a temperamental voice-activated coffee machine!

Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening at Milton Keynes TheatreDrop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening at Milton Keynes Theatre
Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening at Milton Keynes Theatre

The old crew arrive one by one for their first day at Truth News after being hired by Gus and aren’t exactly happy to see each other as they realise they’ve been reunited.

“It’s the same bunch of losers who held me back all those years ago,” groans Damien, who has ended up in a wheelchair and is later insulted as a “Primark Frank Gardner”.

In the modern word an algorithm dictates what the top stories are, not hapless editor George, although Gus reassures him he’ll “be in as much charge as he ever was before”.

The rather scary Joy, who has an HR position she’s totally unsuitable for, gives the new recruits a series of warnings – including her stance on anti-bullying where she states if you partake in bullying make sure there are no witnesses as she doesn’t want to deal with the paperwork!

The show is packed with topical gags, some of which are quite close to the bone, poking fun at manipulated royal photos, Christian Horner, Keir Starmer, Liz Truss to mention just a few.

There are also moments of sheer genius and hilarity, such as Damien being chucked out of his wheelchair by a suspicious Dave who thinks he’s faking his disability. And watch out for the reference by Sally to the North Korean president Xi during Truth News’ first-ever broadcast bulletin, which also manages to slander national treasure David Attenborough, and features a hilarious moment with poor Trevor McDonald.

It’s car crash TV, but Gus doesn’t care as the audience figures are spectacular as the public are glued to their sets – presumably in disbelief at how awful the launch has been.

The unfolding mess makes many of the team consider quitting, but then they’re got the dilemma that the pay is really good (funded by the mysterious owner).

One person not getting a good salary is weathergirl Rita (Kerena Jagpal) who Gus tells the outraged team “is being paid in the currency of experience, an experience she won’t get anywhere else!”

If you’re a fan of the sitcom then this is certainly not to be missed (and each of the original cast got a huge cheer as they made their stage entrance for the first time).

But while there were the die-hards roaring with laughter at the slightest joke or quip, I also noticed some in the audience who at times it barely raised a smirk with – so it might be a bit of a “Marmite” show.

If you didn’t catch it first time around like me then I’d still recommend you give it a go, you’ll warm to the characters in next to no time and enjoy the clever, farcical fun along the way.

Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening! runs until Saturday, March 16. Book your tickets here.