Terry Johnson’s play takes place in the living room of Richard and Eleanor in the week that the world lost comedian greats Benny Hill and Frankie Howard.
Richard is passionate about classic comedians who are no longer with us: Tommy Cooper, Sid James, Max Miller, Eric Morecambe, Tony Hancock… Each gets celebrated in their own little way during the show. Eleanor, however, doesn’t share his passion – in fact their lack of passion is causing issues in their marriage. Eleanor is desperate for a baby, and is concerned that her biological clock is ticking; meanwhile her consultant obstetrician husband will do anything to avoid getting amorous, despite going along with the weekly rituals given to them at therapy sessions. Part way through their current coupling session, with Eleanor desperately trying to seduce Richard in a particularly unsexy way, they are disturbed by Brian, with news of Benny’s death. As the chair of the local ‘Dead Funny Society’, Richard then phones round the other society members to break the sad news, and a party is organised to commemorate the comedian’s passing.
Meanwhile Eleanor has been babysitting the baby of younger couple, Nick and Lisa, themselves members of the ‘Dead Funny Society’, who turn up at the wrong moment, with problems of their own. As the events progress, the characters becoming increasingly frustrated and tempers boil over culminating in an onstage food fight!
Wayne Ings gives a brilliant performance as Richard, mimicking many comedians (alive and dead) throughout – something that he has clearly spent time researching and practising for this role.
Nick Longland portrays the somewhat lonely, single neighbour Brian very affectionately.
Dan Farrell’s mimicking of Benny’s Mr Chow Mein brings some much-needed comedy and sparkle to an otherwise bland role, meanwhile Katy Watts portrays wife Lisa with an air of warmth and subtle naivety.
A little gem within this show is these four actors recreating the classic Morecambe and Wise “Boom, Ooo, Yata-tat-ta” routine – excellently done!
Despite not being the funniest person at the party, Clare Durham as Eleanor gets many of the best and wittiest one liners of the show, and she delivers them with great timing – crucial in something like this.
The show was written in 1994 and some of it felt a little dated. Sadly, the classic one liners quoted from the likes of Hancock, Hill and Howard will almost certainly be lost on the younger audience, who will equally miss much of the comedy around the use of technology.
The trouble with reviewing something early in the run is that is sometimes doesn’t feel quite up to speed yet, but with this cast I am sure that they will hit that mark quickly. The show runs nightly at the Plaza Theatre, Romsey until 23 November. Due to the adult themes, language and nudity in this show, it is suitable for aged 16 and over.