REVIEW: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Durham

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The Lindisfarne Gospels weigh 8.7kg – or as much as an adult badger.

Just one tiny fact in a sea of often-bizarre and always-fascinating history surrounding the world-famous tome, which is the subject of the latest play by renowned writers Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood.

Taking the audience on a dash through 1400 years of North East history, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Durham was commissioned as part of events marking the return of the Gospels to Durham.

And the playwrights, cast and production team have excelled themselves, creating an amazing work packed with ingenious touches.

A Funny Thing... takes the form of a play within a play, similar to Waugh and Wood’s last outing, Amazing Grace.

Reminiscent of Oh! What A Lovely War and Close the Coalhouse Door, the production is comprised of a series of sketches taking the audience on an irreverent romp through the often bloody history of the book.

The central plank of the script sees Viktoria Kay and Chris Connel play an estranged husband-and-wife writing team charged with creating a play about the Gospels.

Meanwhile the ghost of St Cuthbert, played by Robert Hudson, is determined to get the couple back together while assisting with their work.

The structure provides the perfect vehicle in which Waugh and Wood and the three-strong chameleon cast deliver an incredible amount of information as well as a cart load of laughs.

A scene in which King Harold gives a Brian Cough-style post-match interview on losing the Battle of Hastings, thus conveying a comprehensive account of the Norman Conquest in minutes, was nothing short of genius.

An irate Alfred the Great fed up of his achievements playing second fiddle to his baking skills, and a Gandalf-style clerk contending with Viking invaders at the Lindisfarne planning department are two similarly-clever devices.

Even Sherlock Holmes makes an appearance, using his trademark style of deduction to deliver a compact account of Gospels from their arrival in London a the time of Henry VIII to the present day.

This is a show which is arguably as much of a must-see as the Gospels themselves.

Tour venues

Gala Theatre, Durham – July 2-6

Hamsterly Village Hall – July 10

The Maltings, Berwick – July 11

Alnwick Playhouse – July 12

Phoenix Theatre, Blyth – July 13

The Civic Theatre, Darlington – July 15

Consett Empire – July 17

Middlesbrough Theatre – July 18

Bede’s World – July 19

Bowes Museum – July 20

Whitley Bay Playhouse – July 21