Review of Dead Funny – Vaudeville Theatre
British comedians are definitely up there among the world’s greats. Stretching back through the years we’ve seen Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, Kenneth Williams – all great entertainers who made us laugh, despite their own lives being far from perfect. Never forget – laughter is a powerful thing.
Terry Johnson’s production of Dead Funny looks at some of the most beloved British comedians of the 20th century, focusing on Frankie (Howerd) and Benny (Hill). Although today’s generation may only know them from classic films such as The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery and The Italian Job, there’s no denying that their facial expressions and physicality were funny.
Eleanor (Katherine Parkinson) wants a baby, but her marriage to Richard (Rufus Jones) is marred by his dislike of intimacy and his obsession with dead comedians in the Dead Funny Society. In the week where both Frankie and Benny meet their maker, the society get together to remember them through hilarity and laughter.
Unfortunately, Dead Funny did not live up to its name.
It is laughable, cringeworthy and slightly awkward to watch. At times, it is amusing but never comes close to the surprising laughter that has one rolling in the aisles. Channelling aspects of Noises Off (including contact lens issues from the ‘bimbo’) it never quite lives up expectations, choosing to try for cheap laughs – there is unnecessary nudity, farcical behaviour and language that seems uncharacteristic.
The cast perform well (Steve Pemberton is particularly excellent) and are very comfortable with whatever is (literally) thrown at them. There are plenty of references to the greats, including one of the more famous skits from Morecambe and Wise. An interesting idea, the production never quite hits its mark and should perhaps be resigned to a wooden box and buried.