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The Play That Goes Wrong review

Cornley Polytechnic invites you to their latest production – The Murder at Haversham Manor. With such talented actors and creatives behind the show, what could possibly go wrong?

We first saw Mischief Theatre’s delightful slapstick farce when it played at the Old Red Lion. After that, it was whisked off to Trafalgar Studios for a West End transfer, and now they’re embarked on a UK Tour with an expanded two-act show offering heaps of new material, currently bringing the house down (in more ways than one) at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley.

It’s fantastic to see a show like The Play That Goes Wrong doing so well, booking into venues on its merits rather than by relying on star casting or bloated musical numbers. It continues to draw the crowds and leave audiences cachinnating through rave reviews and word of mouth. The secret of its success is simple: it’s very, very funny.

The Play That Goes Wrong

Ostensibly presenting an Agatha Christie-style period murder mystery – subject matter ripe for parody – The Play That Goes Wrong is a play within a play, as the performers play actors of a fictitious company struggling to retain their dignity and stay in character whilst their production goes horribly, disastrously, and (for the audience) deliciously wrong…

We all love things that go wrong. It explains the success of shows like It’ll Be Alright on the Night and You’ve Been Framed. The Play That Goes Wrong captures that sort of humour, takes it to the nth degree and releases the results unto unsuspecting audiences.

The show is a good-natured, family friendly farce. It doesn’t take itself at all seriously, and indeed, the utter absurdity works better for it. It will have especial appeal for anyone who’s ever trodden the boards themselves, as no toe-curlingly embarrassing mishap is left unexamined in cruel detail. Actors missing or jumping queues, becoming trapped in loops of dialogue and walking into the set are the familiar examples, but Mischief Theatre’s imagination knows no bounds. You’ll witness actors knocked unconscious, props disappearing, accidental fires starting, and even… no, we’ll save the best surprises…

The Play That Goes Wrong

The cast works brilliantly together. Henry Shields cements the piece as the director who also takes on the role of Inspector Carter. Tall, thin, moustachioed and neurotic, he put us in mind of Basil Fawlty. Henry Lewis’s refined voice and deadpan delivery offers a welcome contrast; whilst Charlie Russell and Lotti Maddox are hilarious as they compete for the part of the femme fatale.

The audience watched the audacious mishaps – crucially timed to perfection – often with their hearts in their mouths, and laughter often follows from a sense of relief that the actors haven’t been maimed for life. The laughs are mercilessly unrelenting and the jokes cleverly set up, with both verbal and visual humour on target. For a fantastic farce delivered with verve and finesse, you’ll have to go a long way to see better than The Play That Goes Wrong. You can follow Mischief Theatre on Twitter @mischiefcomedy.

Warning: anyone with broken ribs or a weak bladder may wish to consider carefully before booking.

Greg Jameson
Greg Jameson
Book editor, with an interest in cult TV.

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