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Drop the Dead Donkey | The Lowry

Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening is an engaging caricature of the chaos that defines both the country’s political climate and the pens that transcribe it. The behind-the-scenes of the broadcasting industry is explored in the faults and failures of the team at Truth News (characters who used to work together on the team at Globelink News in the original TV show). They are thrown together again inside the glass walls of a modern office, in order to have a second attempt at running a successful news outlet.

This modern office (in a set by Peter McKintosh) - with its pristine walls and scattered cardboard boxes, and the company name ‘TRUTH’ emblazoned across the back in massive, red letters – is like a new coat of polish. It is the perfect veneer, under which lies our buckling news team. The new-fangled coffee machine represents the show’s interrogation of new technologies, most specifically, AI. Sometimes, though, this theme - in conjunction with the play’s status as the ‘reawakening’ of a show from the past - creates a risky sense of nostalgia. This hits the right note for some members of the audience (as those already familiar with the TV show will have a better understanding of the play’s intentions) more than others.

The play is, at times, piercingly relevant, and at times stuck in the past. As we look at the dichotomies of truth, falsehood, power and control, it feels as though we should be asking the question: is this truly as relevant as it seeks to appear? In some regards, the answer is yes; the newsworthy events of the last few years offer themselves up willingly for critique. The inconsistencies and failures that litter the news headlines speak for themselves, so it is clear why a show detailing some of these inconsistencies and failures would rear its head once more. But, the difficulty hereby lies in how these themes are discussed, and through whose perspective. The team are often at the butt of the jokes – for example, in the contrast between each of the characters’ apparent moral commitment to their profession and the more truthfully significant factor of monetary gain. These moments of humour work well, but noticeably there are also jokes that seem more shallow and cheap than the more political or confrontational material.

The character of Sally, for example, is insensitive and problematic, and yet the joke repeatedly made about her is thus: she is an older woman, ergo, she lies about her age. Also, the character of Rita – a young, unpaid intern played by Kerena Jagpal – draws attention to Truth News’ lack of diversity, but it would have been nice to have seen more of her. Her character’s dignity during the last moment we see her is ultimately jabbed at by another character as they describe her as full of herself (or something along those lines), even after agreeing with her sentiments. This content, when isolated, is not necessarily anything other than an emphasis on the faults and flaws of the characters. But, within the context of a comedy whose intended audience seem to find the sight of gender fluid bathrooms funny, it sometimes comes across slightly too ambivalent.

The play effectively draws us into the world of these characters, though. The harmless, cheerful editor George (Jeff Rawle) is the sweeter heart of the play, while some long-lasting tensions and barbed interactions make up its substance. Robert Duncan, as Gus, convinces with a bumbling, misguided enthusiasm, while Neil Pearson, as Dave, is engaging and believable as a character attempting to better himself (by giving up gambling, drinking, and affairs with married women). The play weaves past and present together with jokes that arc back to the play’s genesis – the TV show – alongside jokes that are firmly tied to the present. It is an intriguing look into the dynamic between truth and falsehood in the media, dotted with deepfakes and ruled over by the monopolising, ambiguous, and sinister power of ‘The Algorithm’ (which controls every movement Truth News makes). 

Drop the Dead Donkey manages to revamp its concept with this new play, creating a production that is strong and engaging. It has moments where the overarching relevance seems to lapse slightly, and it has moments of sharpness and humour. From the beginning of the play, though, it is clear that its parody of the world of news and media is still appreciated, and valuable, today. Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening is playing at The Lowry until Saturday 17th February. For more information and tickets, click here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Manuel Harlan


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