Stuart King

Review: DEAD FUNNY at the Vaudeville Theatre

Dead Funny Slapstick and pathos can make for uneasy bedfellows, it is then perhaps a mark of the quality of Terry Johnson's 1992 play Dead Funny that they marry so well and provide the basis for an evening of wonderful and emotionally moving entertainment.

A superb cast of five - each ideally suited to their part - deliver the subtle and not-so-subtle nuances of this revival, currently enjoying a run at the Vaudeville Theatre on the Strand.

Each actor is noteworthy in his or her own right, but central to the narrative is Katherine Parkinson's "Eleanor" and I challenge any audience member to remain unimpressed by her ability to make you check a sob and guffaw out loud, sometimes within the space of a single sentence.

Steve Pemberton, Rufus Jones, Ralf Little and Emily Berrington complete the cast which convenes a meeting of the Dead Funny Society to mourn the passing of TV comedy legend Benny Hill and to celebrate his and others' contributions to the world of comedy. The play is littered with nods (or should that be nudge nudge, wink winks?) to the routines of Norman Wisdom, Sid James, Tony Hancock and Frankie Howerd among others. These provide a corny framework redolent of the kind of British humour widely considered representative of a golden age. It is foolishly self-parodying and comparatively unsophisticated, yet endearingly charming and lacks the sort of caustic cynicism and cruelty which can pervade modern observational humour.

So, in summation - grab a ticket if you crave a nostalgia trip imbued with some unexpected revelations; they combine to provide an evening which is guaranteed to both tug at the heartstrings and tickle the funny bones.

Dead Funny