“The perfect balance of silly humour and clever wit…

After a stellar run at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, Collingwood Woodplayers Troupe are back with their brand-new comedy devised piece, ‘Drop Dead’. The show brings together six characters at the funeral rehearsal of the alive but heavily sedated Will B. Back, masterfully played by Horatio Holloway. With each character hoping to gain a mention in the will, eyes quickly turn on groundskeeper Alistair,  who is controversially named as the main beneficiary. This results in a hilarious battle to gain favour with the ‘yet-to-be deceased’ in the hope that he might change his decision (once he wakes from his temporary sedation). The script is chaotic yet engaging, with the perfect balance of silly humour and clever wit. From salsa dancing to a cappella, each scene brings something new from the last, adding to the hilarity and keeping the audience always on their toes.

Production Managed by Rhiannon Morgan, the show runs seamlessly from start to finish (which is no mean feat in a tight fringe venue), with lighting and sound used to clearly define each new sequence. The minimal set allows the actors to make full use of the space, which they do to great effect.

The comedy of this piece often comes through the physicality of the actors, whose chemistry as an ensemble is evident throughout. A standout performance comes from Alexander Bittar, playing the smarmy farther figure Gareth. Bittar bursts onto the stage at every entrance, delivering each line with energy and intention. At no point did Bittar’s performance feel forced or over baked, as he holds the audience in the palm of his hand. Tara Farquhar and Noah Tucker have the audience instantly on their side as Gareth’s (*hem*hem) twin children Sam and Ralph. This pair work brilliantly together, providing grounding amongst some of the more unusual characters in the show. 

Speaking of unusual characters, Maddie Clarke is spectacular as Will’s devious wife Penelope. Clarke’s comedic timing never fails to land and her stage presence is such that the audience’s eye is drawn towards her whenever she enters a scene. Her energy is matched perfectly by Juliet Willis as the fraudulent ‘professional predictor’ Celeste. Returning to the show after a break due to injury, Willis slots seamlessly back into the troupe as if she has never been away. Her performance is dynamic and engaging, balancing perfect levels of charisma and disdain. The cast is rounded off by Roemer Lips as Alastair, who is instantly warm and likeable as the innocent bystander in the chaos of this show. 

It is clear to see that this troupe has had a blast putting together this piece of theatre, and in response, the audience have had a blast watching it. If you are looking for fifty minutes of unbridled laughter and fun, you should look no further than Woodplayer’s Troupe’s ‘Drop Dead’, playing at the fringe until Saturday 12th August. This troupe is a credit to Durham Student Theatre, and I wish them all the best in their final few days at the Edinburgh Fringe.

By Samuel Kingsley Jones

Drop Dead will continue to show from the 10th to the 12th of August at 21:30 in V9 – theSpace @Niddry St

Photo Credits: Collingwood Woodplayers Troupe