|Audition Notice||Dead Funny||
by Terry Johnson
Allan Stronach has directed fourteen shows at the Tower including The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Teechers, Road, Calendar Girls and (in 1998) Dead Funny. He also directed Sordid Lives, a Tower production at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010. He regularly worked with the National Youth Theatre including as Assistant Director on Murder in the Cathedral in both London and as part of the official Edinburgh International Festival. Away from directing he adapted the novel Kes into a play performed both professionally and by schools and colleges throughout the UK (and in Australia!).
The director writes :
Dead Funny won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 1994 for Terry Johnson and transferred from the Hampstead Theatre to the West End. A new production was staged in the West End in 2016.
We're in an upmarket area of North London in the living room of Richard, Consultant Obstetrician and Eleanor, part time teacher. Richard is also the current chairman of the Dead Comics' Society and will be joined later that evening by best friend, science teacher Nick and his wife ex-dancer Lisa as well as neighbour Brian all of whom are members of the society. Eleanor, though, is very much not a member of the society.
The group is gathering because of the unexpected passing of Benny Hill - no trifling matter - so it's already a very fragile occasion. Then add two fracturing marriages, declarations about sexuality, the problem of impotence plus rehashed comedy routines and you have huge potential for multiple double-entendres, vicious put-downs and black humour.
The comedy references are fast, furious and eventually farcical and during all this tender secrets are cruelly exposed - the real reasons for Richard's celibacy, for Nick's depression, for Lisa's pregnancy and for Brian's sadness.
The characters are :
There's a cast of five, all of whom are wonderful characters with lots of depth to be explored. With the exception of a few short scenes, for most of the play all the characters are on stage together.
The age suggestions do not have to be taken too literally.
Eleanor (late 30s) : Very middle class, part-time teacher in adult education and married to Richard. A very strong character. She has a real internal sorrow, desperately wants a baby and is bitter about the reasons she is unable to conceive. She has some wonderful lines in a 'put-down' kind of way and is funny in an 'ice-queen' kind of way. When Richard returns home with 12 tickets for a Norman Wisdom show she comments, "That's handy. When you fall asleep you can stretch out". On another occasion she turns to him with one of the most tragic lines in the play - "In spite of my desperation I have been patient, in spite of my bewilderment I have been understanding, in spite of my feeling of utter abandonment ... I've been hanging in there trying to help you come through this terrible thing".
She almost despises the Dead Comics' Society and the comedy they love and, because of that, tells her own joke that has every reason for the audience to gasp.
Richard (40s) : A Consultant Obstetrician. Married to Eleanor. This year's Chairman of the Dead Comics' Society. Very pompous as Chairman. Nick's best friend for years. There's a dark side and a kind of brooding, aloofness to his character. Interested in other women but not his wife. Eleanor accuses him of loving comedy but never laughing.
N.B. The script indicates that at one point Richard is naked. In this production the actor will be required to strip to his underwear.
Nick : (mid 30s) : Secondary school teacher of science. Richard's best friend. Married to Lisa. They have just had their first child. There is something quite desperate about the way he is seeing his current situation. Traditional marriage of wife and child but still just a little lonely. We almost feel sorry for him. He is though a very enthusiastic member of the society, loves the comedy and laughs at it a lot (but not at anything else)
Lisa (mid 30s) : Married to Nick. Just had their first child. She is obsessed with the child and worries that it's OK. She is an ex dancer and would have been very happy to be dancing on the Benny Hill Show. She has a kind of innocence about her. She has a problem in that she has regular headaches that she insists are portents of disaster. She is not too bright but certainly not a 'dumb blonde'. She is a bit like a young Barbara Windsor.
Brian (late 50s/early 60s) : Neighbour to Eleanor and Richard. Slightly camp. Cheerful with a heart of gold. Used to live with his mum but she died and he stayed in the house. Would do anything for Eleanor. A bit of an outsider. Relaxed but never really comfortable although an enthusiastic member of the society.
If you are planning to audition could you please try and read the script. (Dead Funny. Terry Johnson. Methuen Drama). It may be difficult to get from a local bookshop but it is currently available from AMAZON/ABE Books!)
At the auditions you will be asked to :
* Tell a joke (either your favourite ever joke or a joke you heard yesterday). We may then try various different ways to tell the same joke.
* Read an extract from the play. We will have someone at the audition to read the other character. So that you will be familiar with the extract we can email you a copy before the audition.
N.B. If you have Summer Holiday plans please let us know at the audition so that they can be put into the rehearsal schedule.