The cast of Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening! - Photo courtesy Norwich Theatre

It launched as a sitcom more than 30 years ago, but now Drop The Dead Donkey is back as a stage show.

During its eight years and six seasons on Channel 4 it was known for its topical references, with scenes recorded as late as the day of broadcast.

It also served as a satire on media prejudices, Birtian business speak, and the (alleged) lengths journalists might go to to get stories.

Back now on stage with much of the original cast, the actors are looking a little older but how much else has changed?

Sky News is no longer the new kid on the block, but GB News fills much the same role in today’s world for people anxious about broadcast balance. The show’s Globelink News channel has morphed into Truth News – complete with murky backers – to offer an unlikely (though just about plausible) reunion for the newsroom team.

The cast of Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening! - Photo courtesy Norwich Theatre
The cast of Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening! – Photo courtesy Norwich Theatre

For people that remember the TV original the show is a nostalgic dream. Led by chronically unlucky editor George (Jeff Rawle), the hacks quickly fit into their familiar roles: Stephen Tomkinson is Damian, the investigative reporter with a heart of stone and a flexible relationship with truth; Neil Pearson is Dave, the roguish but now apparently reformed gambler, womaniser, and drinker; Victoria Wicks is Sally, the high-maintenance news reader; Ingrid Lacey is Helen, the now slightly-broken moral compass; Robert Duncan is Gus, the chief executive whose word-soup of management speak is unintelligible, with his motives similarly opaque. Susannah Doyle’s character Joy has the least convincing reason for being back on the team but, once we’re past that, her sarcastic – and often sinister – one liners fit right into place.

They are joined by two new characters, weather presenter and knowing diversity hire Rita (Kerena Jagpal) and investigative journalism big-hitter Mairead (Julia Hills).

The first 20 minutes work best for people who know the characters, but the exposition quickly allows newcomers to get to grips with the scenario too and settle into the jokes. The show is crackling with humour, often veering into darker topics but just about keeping on the right side of good taste.

The cast’s performances show why for so many the show was a springboard into highly-successful careers. It was always a strong ensemble piece, relying on the relationships between the characters to surface much of the humour. The writing is as strong as ever, mixing cheap jokes with more pointed satire and inside jokes for those in the news game.

There are a sprinkling of topical inserts – such as references to Trump’s trial and the debate on assisted dying – though not quite as many as the original programme managed; understandably given the differences between live and recorded formats.

It’s a triumphant return for the show: laugh out loud funny; warm, human performances; and a freshness that makes it feel relevant three decades on. Tune in if you can.