“Humour’s a funny thing,” remarks one of the characters in ‘Dead Funny’, the next production by Newport Playgoers. It’s a play about comedians and comedy, but the drama focuses on the fact that there is no universal agreement about what is funny. Different people laugh at different things.
The action is set during the days in 1992 that saw the death of both Benny Hill and Frankie Howerd. This spate of dying comics comes as a deep blow to the Dead Funny Society, a group of suburban comedy buffs – equipped with much the same mentality as train-spotters – to whom the play introduces us.
Eleanor, the main character in the play, is out of step with her husband Richard’s Dead Funny Society and its small membership, all dedicated to celebrating stars of the variety theatre such as Max Miler, Tony Hancock and Tommy Cooper.
The death of Benny Hill provides the impetus for this comedy about impotence, sex therapy and the English sense of humour. Eleanor desperately wants what husband Richard will not give her – a baby – but all he wants is to be left in peace to celebrate his comedy heroes with his friends.
Eleanor doesn’t find Benny Hill the least bit funny. She thinks he’s tasteless and sexist, as do many people. The undeniable truth is that he has many people rolling in the aisles.
Richard Dymond, the play’s director, commented, “One of the pleasures of plays such as ‘Dead Funny’ is its ability to stop an audience in its tracks, the laughter flipped into silence as the mood switches from riotous humour to real pain.
“The play reveals how the men in the Dead Funny Society, like their comedy heroes, exist in emotionally dysfunctional states, a bunch of misfits and in no way the “sexual magnets” their sketches would suggest.”
The drama revolves around a very different kind of death – Eleanor and Richard’s marriage is in a state of terminal decay. She is the only one who is able to see this. He prefers to gather his friends round for a custard pie fight and a re-enactment of old Morecambe and Wise routines.
Audiences will find a great deal in this play to make them laugh – and also to reflect upon, as various aspects of human emotions are skilfully explored.
‘Dead Funny’ is at the Dolman Theatre from 15 –18 October at 7.15 pm, with an extra matinee performance on the Saturday at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.