Dead Funny is the latest offering from student theatre group Illyria Productions. The play, a critically-acclaimed piece from Terry Johnson, follows a middle-class thirty-something couple caught up in a stagnating, childless marriage.
The play follows an evening in the life of the couple, Richard and Eleanor, and a handful of their friends. Camp, recently-bereaved Brian appears alongside Richard’s university friend Nick, who comically laments his loss of what might have been a dazzling surgical career, and Nick’s wife Lisa, whose innocent obsession with her newborn leaves her blind to the pain of her childless friend Eleanor, completes the group.
The script is hilarious, the play well-acted and the comic timing spot on. Scenes of particular amusement include the exasperated couple’s viewing of a sex tape, which comes complete with Cockney voice-over and helpful directions on how to re-ignite the spark of a marriage.
A note of sadness underlies the hilarity, as the audience cannot help but feel sympathy for Eleanor, as she watches her friend Lisa cooing over her newborn baby. The actress expertly conveys the frustration Eleanor must feel as she is confronted with scenes of apparent marital bliss. Lisa, however, hints at her own marital distress.
The cast as a whole successfully conveys the pain and pleasures of the lives of a bunch of thirty-year-olds, drawing laughs from the audience throughout. The play may be a student production with a cast of amateurs, but it has a professional quality rarely found in university theatre.