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Dead Funny - Norwich Players (01.02.2023)

When I saw the fantastic turnout for the production on a freezing cold Wednesday evening in February, it made me slightly sad for the company that Dead Funny hadn’t been given a slot on the main stage at the Maddermarket.

Once the show began in earnest though, I realised why staging it in the Emmerson Studio was a masterstroke.

Hosted in the living room of married couple Eleanor (Georgie Matthews) and Richard (Shem Jacobs), the action had an awkward, chaotic, and claustrophobic feel about it which would have been lost in a bigger space. Some of the awkwardness relied on the audience being at close quarters too, so I’m glad we were able to see it ‘close-up’.

The play opened with Eleanor attempting to initiate a discussion with Richard about his bedroom issues. Richard appears to be struggling with his libido, and Eleanor is understandably desperate to be noticed. Just as Eleanor is about to get to grips with Richard (in more ways than one), they are interrupted by their friend, Brian (Marston York), who drops in to announce the death of Benny Hill.

From here we are welcomed into the world of the Dead Funny Society, an appreciation group for lovers of classic comedy greats such as Frankie Howerd, Morecambe & Wise, Norman Wisdom, and the aforementioned Benny Hill.

It’s anything but a straight comedy though, and although it features slapstick and custard pies, it’s a complex comedy that portrays difficult relationships, the use of wit to mask true feelings, and the sense of belonging in a world where you’ve felt you never really fitted in.

It was expertly performed and sensitively handled by the talented group of five actors, which also included Emily Foxton and Bradley Clarke playing Lisa and Nick, another troubled married couple.

As much as I like to single out performers for praise in my reviews, it genuinely was a brilliant example of a well-drilled unit operating perfectly in-sync, and in a way, it probably speaks volumes of the exceptional quality throughout when I say that no performance stood out.

They entertained me from start to finish - there was no lulls in the script, and no drop in the pacing, it was just artfully performed dark comedy, and the Director, Joe Flatt, must take a huge amount of credit for getting the most out of this supremely gifted bunch.

I very much look forward to whatever the Maddermarket chooses to stage next in the intimate setting of the Studio, and I hope it’s not long too before I see those involved in Dead Funny doing what it is they do best.


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