The Tower Theatre Company seek to outrage and (somewhat) inspire with their recreation of Dead Funny. Originally written in the 1990s by Terry Johnson, this contemporary version seeks to regenerate a comedic style to reach and resonate with twenty-first-century audiences.
A performance that feels like a classic comedy, with a sexualised twist…
Ferocious and incredibly farcical, Dead Funny explores the lives and souls of five people in and around a ‘dead comedian society.’ At the forefront is well-seasoned married couple, Eleanor (Helen McGill) and Richard (Ryan Williams), whose lack of physical intimacy drives the central part of the narrative. Alongside them, parallel the seemingly more put-together couple on paper, their friends Nick (James van Langenberg) and Lisa (Lucy Moss). However, it arises that they too have issues of their own and struggle to emotionally connect, primarily due to Lisa’s apparent psychic abilities. Amidst this kerfuffle are timely interruptions from bumbling Brian (Daniel Watson), who doesn’t quite know where he fits in, but his ability to strike up empathy as an outsider ultimately allows him to tie the entire plot together.
Helen McGill steals the show, portraying a woman near-lunacy over her un-met desires, her apparently un-funny character is ultimately the most hilarious of the bunch. Her comedic timing was near-impeccable and her constant facial expressions throughout each scene light up the stage – the audience constantly watching her to see how she would respond to her many grievances next. Ryan Williams, too, portrays a frustrated and tired Richard, who appears to have no desires except to impersonate Benny Hill, but he is not all that he seems. His confusing and routine-like character is made dynamic by Williams, who presents a man more complicated and unlikeable than first meets the eye. Each character is deeply layered and problematic in their own way, but also fiercely hilarious. Although the performance itself was not seamless, it was great fun to watch, with all five actors having fantastic chemistry with one another.
The show itself felt like a classic, with Phillip Ley’s set design making it reminiscent of an Abigail’s Party era; a two-act play taking place in a garish living room, with cheesy music, drab party drinks and less-than-appealing food that ultimately ends up everywhere. Likewise, the music (sound by Stephen Ley) featured songs from famous comedy shows throughout the ages, including the infamous Benny Hill Theme. All combined, Dead Funny plays around with the knowledge that it is an ultimate throwback to a dead time – a style of comedy that is not made anymore, but never fails to make audiences laugh.
Director Allan Stronach took this fantastic concept and from it created a more-than-interesting execution. Ultimately, the show was outrageous! Stronach’s instruction in allowing each actor to explore crude and over-exaggerated actions showed the level of comfort and trust they had in each other, prompting strong positive reactions from the audience.
This was a fun take on the classic comedy style – with a sexualised twist. Johnson’s writing is used by the cast and crew to create equal measures of wit and deviance. The show itself is a breath of fresh and satirical air that those that are crude enough will take great delight in laughing at.