Jeff Rawle describes the opportunity to bring hapless TV station editor George Dent back into the office as ‘a total gift’.

Drop the Dead Donkey was one of Channel 4’s must watch shows during the 90s; the story of a struggling TV news channel and its eccentric collection of staff was both outrageous and hugely enjoyable - poking fun at current events and serving up scenarios which were too implausible to ever be taken seriously. Or were they?

Bury Times: The cast of Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening  (Picture: Manuel Harlan)

Now some 25 years after the TV series ended, virtually the entire original cast have been reunited for a stage version - Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening which comes to The Lowry next week as part of a UK tour.

As well as Jeff playing George Dent, the cast includes Robert Duncan as station boss Gus Hedges, Victoria Wicks as news presenter Sally Smedley, Stephen Tompkinson as amoral reporter Damien Day, Neil Pearson as the womanising deputy sub editor Dave Charnley and Susannah Doyle as feisty HR guru Joy.

Haydn Gwynne, who died last year and David Swift who died in 2016 were also part of the original series.

“I think for all of us this is a fantastic opportunity to go back and do something that we all loved so much,” said Jeff.

The new show is very much that - it is not a rehash of original episodes but a totally new story situated very much in today’s world of AI, fake news and digital audiences.

“It is not a nostalgia trip,” said Jeff. “I think that the cards have just fallen right for us to get together again.

“With the passing of time since the TV show ended and new stations cropping up like mushrooms, it’s an ideal time to look at all that and gives us a bone fide reason for being here.”

Bury Times: Jeff Rawle as George in Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening                                  (Picture: Manuel Harlan)

They always say that you should never go back, so was Jeff worried at all about the prospect of revisiting characters who were so well-loved?

“There was an element of trepidation of course,” he said, “but even from the first read through we knew we were doing the right thing. It was eerie the way everyone naturally just slipped back into their characters. It was lovely to watch people being reunited with their former selves.

“We also trusted the writers Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkins. They have always had good instincts and if they felt the time was right for the show to come back we had total confidence in them. None of us had seen the script but we all agreed to be part of it.”

One of the highlights of the weekly TV show was the way the scripts covered items in the news with large chunks often being rewritten just before filming to include a new item.

“That was quite a challenge,” said Jeff. “We all had different methods of hiding our lines for bits that we hadn’t had chance to rehearse.

“Post-It notes were very popular and you could always hide your lines by carrying a clipboard. This was in the days when there was a lot of paper around an office so no-one ever suspected we had hidden crib sheets.

“Computers were only just a thing. We did have some on our desks, they had green on black screens but no-one knew how to use them so we couldn’t hide our lines on them.”

For anyone fearing that a transfer to the stage will affect the spontaneity of the show, fear not.

“Oh boy, will there be changes,” said Jeff. “It’s changing as we speak (news had just broken about King Charles having cancer as we did our interview and it was being added into that night’s show). The plan is that every Monday new topical stuff will be added in for that week’s run but the writers will also bring us stuff that’s fresh off the page to keep everything up-to-date.

“I think that is every actor’s worst nightmare in a way but it’s something we all got used to. And it was one of the show’s unique selling points.

“We felt that if the audience didn’t have a good crop of topicals then they might feel short changed and we don’t want that to happen. We do promise quite a lot from a senior cast with fading memories – I just hope it all sticks!”

At the time of the original episodes - Drop the Dead Donkey ran for six series - the antics of the Globelink News team were regarded as totally implausible, if very funny, by many viewers.

Bury Times: Reunited - the cast of Drop the Dead Donkey with Jeff Rawle (centre) (Picture: Manuel Harlan)

“You had Gus Hedges in charge of this enterprise that was barking mad, it surely couldn’t happen,” said Jeff. “Yet with hindsight, a lot of what was fiction then has been overtaken by reality. It was amazingly prescient in many ways.”

The show was particularly popular among journalists and those in the media who recognised many of the characters in the show.

“They were a motley bunch and each had a dark wit and was able to express their take on incoming news. It was something that you could not see and would not have worked on any other drama,” said Jeff.

As for George, the world of news may have become hi-tech but his world remains very much the same.

“He’s still in his cardigan trying to make sense of it all,” said Jeff. “He’s full of hope and in a new relationship in his life which has buoyed up his confidence. He believes what he is about to undertake be a huge success. But this is George we’re talking about.”

Drop the Dead Donkey: The Reawakening, The Lowry, Tuesday, February 13 to Saturday, February 17 . Details from