Comedian Tommy Cannon, of Cannon and Ball fame, will be starring in a play in Consett this weekend – a black comedy about the afterlife.
Seriously Dead is an uplifting story which suggests that death doesn’t mean life’s party has to end – it just moves to another location.
In Seriously Dead, Thelma Henderson finds she is unable to enter the Pearly Gates – because Heaven’s bureaucracy has gone digital and she doesn’t have the correct paperwork.
Thelma is told to wait by the gates until the problem can be sorted out. In the meantime, she finds herself becoming a reluctant guardian angel to the one true love of her life, Billy Blenkinsopp.
In addition to Tommy Cannon, Seriously Dead stars Benidorm and I’m a Celebrity actress Crissy Rock and comedian Billy Pearce. The play will be staged at Consett’s Empire Theatre on Saturday 21st April.
Seriously Dead was written by north-east playwright Leah Bell. Born in Benwell, Newcastle, Leah now lives in Northumberland.
Leah, who has been involved in a number of pantomimes at the Empire, will also star in the show. She handpicked the rest of the cast, including Tommy, who will celebrate his 80th birthday later this year.
Leah said, “We worked together thirty years ago, in a summer season show in Jersey, and he was a lovely man, we got on so well.”
“I’d been watching Not Going Out and his long-time stage partner Bobby Ball had a role in that – I wondered to myself if Tommy would be up for something different.”
“I know that they still appear together as Cannon and Ball, but could he find a window to do Seriously Dead?”
Leah and Tommy met up to discuss the idea. Leah said, “It didn’t feel like 30 years since I’d seen him, more like three days ago! And he looked at the script and said ‘yes’ immediately.”
Tommy said, “It’s all very different to the act that Bobby and I do, which is structured but also fairly free-wheeling.”
“A stage play means learning lines for a start – lots of them – and of course sticking to them. You can’t wing it and go off course. The rest of the cast would never forgive you.”
“Leah, Bobby and I got on like a house on fire all those years ago and we always kept in touch. Then, out of the blue, I got a call from her and I thought, ‘It’s new, it’s a great script … let’s go for it!’”
Tommy will play the petty crook and ladies’ man Albert Blunderstone. Tommy said Albert “is best summed up as having a finger in a lot of dodgy pies and a bit of a northern Delboy.”
Speaking of his long career, Tommy said, “Retirement is a dirty word to me. I’ve no intention of packing it all in – why should I? I’ll have a crack at anything as long as the offers keep on coming.”
The title of the play comes from a song by the composer Mike Redway. Mike is also responsible for all the music in the show.
Leah feels Seriously Dead is “best summed up as a very black comedy with a very bright light at the end of the tunnel.”
Seriously Dead will be staged at the Consett Empire on Saturday 21st April at 7.30 pm. Tickets are priced at £20 or £19 for concessions. To make a booking, please go to www.consettempire.co.uk or telephone 01207 218 171.