For comedians Sean Morley and Benjamin Alborough, they knew that when renowned broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan passed in 2016, he was destined for the depths of hell. Whether that’s due to his occasionally tasteless statements (for example, branding 2014’s Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst’s drag act a “freak show”), or just an irrational hatred of his Irish charm is unknown, but who am I to argue? This show is a case of “when it’s right, it’s right”.
Birthed when Alborough (of the Weirdos Comedy Collective) co-hosted an alternative song contest on Morley (of Sheffield-based comedy collective North Wave)’s Twitch stream, in full Wogan persona (save for the wig), Terry Wogan Screams focuses more on the legacy of Wogan’s broader career, especially his hosting of gameshows such as Blankety Blank and the original Come Dancing. As a devout Eurovision fan since 2007 (Wogan’s penultimate year as commentator), I didn’t mind the lack of content surrounding the contest – it clearly didn’t need it.
In Terry Wogan Screams, Sir Terry (Alborough) comes back from the dead to bring back his blend of light entertainment, via a gameshow made up of other iconic gameshows. With the help of three audience volunteers – and “Shaun”, brought down from the tech booth to hold some “yur-ruls” (URL links about Terry), the first half consists of surreal takes on shows like Blankety, Golden Balls and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Added ambiance comes from an electric pianist who turns even the most bombastic of TV themes into KPM-esque elevator music.
Being someone who loves to lean into surrealism and base my brand around a good semi-obscure pop culture reference, I found this half an absolute treat. Standout segments include the “Millionaire” parody, revolving around Wogan’s 2016-dated cultural knowledge, and a Catchphrase of Paddy McGuinness gifting a tungsten cube in the middle of a war. However, a recurring gag has Sir Terry trying to find ways to say the word “fuck”, which feels like a cheap cop-out adding shock value to his usually inoffensive persona.
Then, the game show becomes a meat raffle and my interest wanes. Upon the thematic change from game show to court sentence, the second act finds itself too loose. Alborough’s top-notch impressionism, the volunteers’ improvisation and a genius piece of discussion around whether blood sausage makes blood a meat feel like the only things holding it together. While Sean acts as the show’s straight man, his role in the show started to frustrate me after a while – by the end of the show, I found myself going through the expected set of audience-participation motions, rather than speaking from my heart (i.e. admitting I have a soft spot for Terry despite me finding the real Terry fairly dodgy).
With a second performance scheduled for the 26th February during the Leicester Comedy Festival, I hope to see that Morley and Alborough have found a way to tighten the ending up and constantly enthral; to make it seem more evergreen without relying on audience members’ improvisational skills. Leaving decisions up to the audience holding up red and green cards does not a perfect resolution make, and if it wasn’t for the volunteers and the table of hecklers in the front row, I would’ve wrapped up the show with something fully-realised; in the spirit of other humdrum daytime game shows that didn’t get a look-in. That being said, it spoke to my absurdist-comedy-loving heart and gave me the opportunity to watch a pitch-perfect Terry Wogan impersonator do his thing.
VAULT Festival 2023 runs Tuesday 24th January to Sunday 19th March, full listings and ticket information can be found here.
This review was written by a participant of the VAULT Festival New Critics Programme in partnership with Theatre Weekly. For more information about the VAULT Festival New Critics Programme, and all of our 2023 participants, please visit: https://vaultfestival.com/new-critics-programme/