Writers: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Director: Mark Bell
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
The Derngate houses this week, at the start of its U.K tour, The Play That Goes Wrong, a wonderful piece of comic theatre which leaves its audience questioning the title; it should, surely have been ‘drastically wrong’! This is the play’s third year, with accolades aplenty, including the West End’s Olivier, a Tony Award and numerous international ones too, rightly deserved.
We meet the local drama group, ‘The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ , which has decided for its next production to try out a murder mystery (Agatha Christie style) set in the early 20th century. However, all is not well for the Cornley crew who encounter disaster upon disaster as they forge their way through Murder at Haversham Manor. This is farce at its best, much like those old Brian Rix scenarios, which many audience members may recall.
Co-written by company members Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields of Mischief Theatre, The Play That Goes Wrong is an extremely physical comedy which delivers slapstick in the cleverest and most wacky way; it is so easy to go over the top in this style of comedy but not here. It just reaches the limits at times but with what panache and incredible timing!
Jake Curran brings us Chris, the very stressed Director who also performs as Inspector Carter and the man who seems to fill a lot of rôles, in every sense, for Cornley Drama Society. His rapport with the audience is wonderful and he handles the odd heckler well too. Fantastic facial expressions portray Chris’ frustration at the turns of events and the poor acting that occurs. Elena Valentine’s Sandra (playing Florence Colleymore ) is a brilliant skit on those type of amateur actors who are desperate to have that moment of fame. Some superb physical work also, particularly when, as the comatose Annie, she is person-handled through the window! Kazeem Tosin Amore’s portrayal of Robert playing Thomas Colleymore is nothing short of amazing especially when he is coping with all the moving and broken scenery. He has a real stage presence and not just because of his stature and height. As Max, who takes on the part of Cecil Faversham, Bobby Hirston delights the audience with his self-conscious smiles and the way he smashes into objects or is knocked around. Physical farce at its best, delivered with ease and gymnastic skill. Gabriel Paul’s lighting and sound man, Trevor, is a really likeable character with whom the audience forms a bond from the start, and that is well before the show even begins. Paul delivers the laid-back techie with real charm and believability. Catherine Dryden’s coy Stage Manager/understudy, Annie, is a subtle tour de force.
The energy of the entire cast is endless, the antics almost relentless. Indeed, sometimes one could cringe at the repeated mistakes and some of the running jokes are a tad laden as with the dispute between Annie and Sandra when they both end up playing the same role. Similarly, the moment at the end of the first act when the characters keep saying the same lines over and over again is somewhat extended. This does not detract, however, from the overall technical triumph of the set, the acting and the very sharp writing and direction.
Plenty of laughs here and for all the family, as evidenced by the giggles from many of the children present. A delightful evening’s entertainment which leaves one with a grin for a long time afterwards.
Runs until 7 January 2018 | Image: Robert Day