BREAKING NEWS! Charles Hutchinson’s verdict on: Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening!, Leeds Grand Theatre ****

Back in the news: Stephen Tompkinson’s Damien, left, Robert Duncan’s Gus, Jeff Rawle’s George, Neil Pearson’s Dave and Victoria Wicks’s Sally Smedley reunite in The Truth newsroom in Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening!

MARK Twain would have it that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Once that mantra would keep journalists on their mettle, but now we are in a media world of truths, half-truths and Donald Trump’s favourite, alternative truths, and this way trouble lies.

Already the Beeb had a disinformation correspondent. Then came last May’s launch of the BBC Verify team of 60 journalists, whose forensic job is to “fact-check, verify video, counter disinformation, analyse data and – crucially – explain complex stories in the pursuit of truth”.

In our age of fakes deeper than a Balearic holiday tan, alleged Russian interference on social media and AI manipulation, the virus of misinformation is spreading ever wider and faster.

So much for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when so much news output is slanted opinion rather than fact or when politicians play for time by saying “let me make this absolutely clear”. Muddy the water? More like the rotten state of the Thames on this month’s Boat Race day.

Once there was the loneliness of the midnight-shift shock-jock on the radio, now there is a plethora of right-leaning news radio stations and celebrity hack-led satellite TV channels.

News alert! Here comes Truth News. After Alan Partridge, Brassy Eye’s Chris Morris, Armando Iannucci and Punt & Dennis’s The Now Show, and the indefatigable thorn-in-the-side investigative journalism of Ian Hislop’s Private Eye, what better time for Drop The Dead Donkey to re-enter the fray, 30 years after Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin launched their TV satire on newsroom practices and malpractices behind the deadlines and the headlines.

Earlier this spring, An Evening With The Fast Show recalled all its TV yesterdays with a nostalgic night of chat, catchphrases and microwave-quick sketches 30 years on at the Grand Opera House.

By comparison, Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening is no mere re-heat. Yes, “the band have got back together again”, save for the late Haydn Gwynne (1957-2023), Globelink News’s deputy editor, but now they work for the soon-to-launch Truth News in the white heat of the 2024 news industry, 24-hour rolling news et al.

Welcome back George (Jeff Rawle), the stoical editor, with a new North Korean girlfriend on his mind and an erratic coffee machine to work out, over-eager to respond to his every spoken order.

One by one, the “fab four” reunite in Drop The Dead Donkey’s stage debut: next, the troubled and in-trouble Dave (Neil Pearson), then buzzword-chomping chief executive Gus (Robert Duncan).

Lastly, Damien (Stephen Tompkinson), always a stranger to truth in the cause of a scoop from the frontline and now confined to a wheelchair as a “Primark Frank Gardner”. That gibe is typical of Hamilton and Jenkin’s wit, attuned to the BBC Radio 4 listeners populating the Grand Theatre auditorium, along with a knowing jest at their age.

Thirty years on, the news hounds remain well drawn, colourful and amusingly fallible characters. Less so, the women in the news team: Ingrid Lacey’s long-suffering Helen; Susannah Doyle’s not exactly joyful Joy; Julia Hills’ duplicitous Mairead and Kerena Jagpal’s newcomer, Rita, the easily shocked weather girl, sorry, presenter.

Only Victoria Wicks’s newsreader, the implacable, thick-skinned Sally Smedley, has lines or a story arc to rival the men in the room. That’s a missed opportunity by the writers.

As Truth News takes to the air, the frictions and revelations, the technical hitches and glitches, have the rhythm of sitcom, forcing familiar characters and traits to collide anew. Duncan’s hyperbolic Gus is on particularly fine form, bubbling and babbling away the more the troubled waters rise.

Hamilton and Jenkin are at their punchiest in their topicality, updating the script throughout the tour, taking pot shots at Sunak and Hancock for example. Their satirical finger is on the pulse of 2024 news gathering and the source of its financing too.

Nothing sums up news trends better than gushing Gus’s obsession with the power of algorithms to dictate news agendas. Time after time he hits you with his algorithm schtick, more ridiculous than the last.

Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening! lives up to that exclamation mark, its sceptical, zeitgiest humour topped off by Damien’s Henry V-style battle cry in the cause of truth that brings the house down in agreement, only for one last revelation to trip him up.

Derek Bond’s smart direction, Peter Mackintosh’s newsroom set and Dan Light’s video design are spot on. Drop the dud ending, or at least make it sharper, and this would be an even better comeback show. And that’s the truth.

Drop The Dead Donkey, Leeds Grand Theatre, tonight at 7.30pm. Box office: 0113 243 0808 or