fri 21/06/2024

Dead Ringers Live, London Wonderground review - impressionists on great form | reviews, news & interviews

Dead Ringers Live, London Wonderground review - impressionists on great form

Dead Ringers Live, London Wonderground review - impressionists on great form

Radio 4 show's cast in Underbelly residency

Debra Stephenson, Jon Culshaw and Duncan Wisbey create a huge cast of characters

Here's a treat for those missing Dead Ringers (created by Bill Dare) as it takes a break on Radio 4.

Dead Ringers Live has started a short season at Underbelly's London Wonderground, where live shows are being performed at its famous purple cow and big top, set within a family-friendly enclosure with fairground-style attractions, as well as food stalls and bars.

Three of the radio show's cast – Jon Culshaw, Debra Stephenson and Duncan Wisbey – perform in the Big Top. A little cheekily, it is mostly an hour of their favourite recent sketches from the radio shows, but some are so good that it's nice to be reminded of just how talented the writing team are. And, of course, the voice impressions are nearly always spot-on, creating a cast of dozens on stage. In one sketch alone, I counted nearly 20 different characters being spoofed.

A favourite target for Dead Ringers is another Radio 4 stalwart, the Today programme, which of course allows the cast to voice any number of presenters, politicians and celebrities, and they started off with a lengthy and gag-filled spoof of the show. It took in recent-ish news items, including Boris Johnson's wedding: “You may now kiss the bridesmaid you've been eyeing up all afternoon.”

On the night I saw it, the audience interaction section fell flat, but was rescued by the three riffing on why Culshaw couldn't “do” fellow comic Henning Wehn, who surely has one of the most take-off-able accents and style of delivery in the business. As Culshaw demurred, Stephenson and Wisbey jumped in with some inspired silliness of how various voices can quickly crash into others; they're known as “voice neighbours” in the trade, Culshaw told us.

The running gags – the Today programme, telephone messages – may be old but the newer material delivered too, such as a cracking parody of the television adaptation of Normal People, complete with Pinteresque pauses and repetition.

Among his stable of characters, Wisbey has two equally brilliant impersonations – Jacob Rees-Mogg as a Love Island contestant (“I dress like a hearse”) and his dry-as-a-bone Chris Whitty as a presenter of a Saturday night quiz show, “Next Slide, Please” – while Stephenson's host of characters rarely disappoint, with her Stacey Dooley and Davina McCall particular standouts. Culshaw is, as ever, all-round magnificent; just don't ask him to take off a German comic.

The running gags may be old but the newer material delivered too


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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