Drawing: Dead Funny

dead-funny

“Painfully funny and funnily painful comedy,” said The Times about DEAD FUNNY, Terry Johnson’s homage to the golden age of British TV comedy. I was lucky enough to see the original production when it transferred from Hampstead to the Vaudeville Theatre in London’s West End in 1994, featuring Zoe Wanamaker and David Haig.

It returned to the same theatre this Autumn, again directed by the writer for a limited run until next February. Lead by Katherine Parkinson as Eleanor, the frustrated wife in a flatlining marriage who is desperate for a baby with her pompous, intimancy-phobic husband Richard, played by Rufus Jones. He gets his jollies chairing the Dead Funny Society, a group of nerdy, emotionally deficient comedy aficionados – Ralf Little (Nick), Steve Pemberton (Brian) and Emily Berrington (Lisa), who meet up in April 1992 when two of Britain’s cherished funnymen Benny Hill and Frankie Howard copped it on consecutive days to not only mourn, but celebrate their contribution to hilarity and laughter.

In the end it’s Eleanor who provides the final irony in the play, wrote Guardian critic Michael Billington, “even though she despises the Dead Funny Society, she is the only one with a sense of humour.

“Johnson’s classic brings laughs with a lump in the throat. Comedy may have changed radically since Johnson wrote the play, but it still holds a disturbing mirror up to all those of us who worship at the shrine of dead comics,” he concluded.

I managed get my montage signed by all five ‘Live Funny’ actors amongst the festive rush at the Vaudeville stage door over the past week.

Drawing: Absent Friends at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Absent FriendsA superb revival of Alan Ayckbourne’s  Absent Friends, a comedy about bereavement and the death of love was staged at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London during the spring of 2012. Directed by Jeremy Herrin, the critically-acclaimed production had a stellar cast in alphabetical order, David Armand, Elizabeth Berrington, Katherine Parkinson, Steffan Rhodri, Reece Sheersmith and Kara Tointon – all of whom signed my sketch. Usually with larger casts it takes a few visits to the stage door to complete the set, but on this occasion the ‘graph god was smiling and as they all arrived for a saturday matinée on a sunny mid-april afternoon, one at a time in perfect procession, my mission was accomplished.

 

Drawing: Ben Whishaw and Katherine Parkinson in Cock at the Royal Court Theatre

cock

Provocatively titled, Cock was Mike Bartlett’s punchy new Olivier award winning play, which premiered at The Royal Court in 2009, directed by James Macdonald.

When John takes a break from his girlfriend, he accidentally meets the girl of his dreams. But difficulties arise when you realise you have a choice. It’s a piece full of the male member slang connotations, including the traditional British ‘cock and bull’ story and staged in a circular bullring, or more aptly, a ‘cockpit’.

The brilliant BAFTA award winning Ben Whishaw played ‘John’ – the only properly named character in the play, with the rest of the quartet labelled ‘M’ ‘W’ and ‘F’ – man , woman, father. The equally talented Katherine Parkinson was the only female cast member, playing ‘W’, a tender divorcee.

Shy, but always friendly, Ben, who is currently mesmerising audiences and critics in Mojo, signed at the Noel Coward stage door after a performance of Peter and Alice in April 2013.   I then sent the sketch to Katherine who was the lead in Before the Party at the Almeida.