Writers: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer & Henry Shields
Director: Mark Bell
Reviewer: Bethan Highgate-Betts
Mischief Theatre Company’s winner of the Best New Comedy at the Olivier Awards and the Whatsonstage Awards, The Play That Goes Wrong is on Broadway, in its fourth year in the West End and touring the UK. It seems its popularity knows no bounds as it’s award nominations and wins just keep adding up. With the programme boasting that in 2017 the production was playing in every continent except Antarctica.
The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society already have many less than successful productions to their name, and now they’re trying their luck with a 1920s murder mystery. Murder At Haversham Manor is fast-paced a tale of jealousy and betrayal…or at least it would be if things would just stop going wrong. Exasperated actors and stage technicians soldier on to no avail as the production (sometimes literally) falls apart around them. It’s a murder mystery at its worst and comedy theatre at it’s very best.
After a short introduction from the plays enthusiastic director and lead actor Chris Bean (Jake Curran), the production begins just as you would expect any classic murder mystery to begin, with the discovery of a murder. However, the murder of Charles Haversham brings about instant hilarity with the ‘corpse’ being manhandled and moving slightly more than a corpse should, in the opening moments. From there Murder At Haversham Manor descends into total anarchy, and that’s where the real fun begins.
This is a beautifully choreographed farce, immaculately timed and hilariously performed. The Play That Goes Wrong was the debut piece by Olivier Award-winning writing trio and LAMDA alumni Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields. Directed by Mark Bell, the slick slapstick silliness has the audience roaring with laughter throughout. It is easy to see why this production is so loved, with its mix of comedy elements. From the visual gags of pieces of set falling and failing and the slapstick classics of characters slipping over. To complex wordplay and hilariously mistimed directions.
The high-speed production packs in an incredible amount of jokes, some of which you can see coming, but with the pitch-perfect delivery, they still make you laugh out loud. With the talented ensemble cast never missing a beat. This is quite some feat as each cast member has to not only take on the role of their character within the murder mystery but also adding in the intricacies of their ‘offstage’ persona as members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society.
The set is a masterpiece to behold. It’s intricate workings (or seemingly failings) bringing some of the shows biggest laughs. With set designer Nigel Hook winning the 2017 Tony award for the Broadway production, as well as going on to design the set for the West End, UK tour, Australian and New Zealand productions.
This is a company and cast that know exactly what they’re doing. Everything is tight and polished, which is a joy to watch. Top class comedy theatre, its 2 hours and 5 minutes of fun and an exhausting amount of laughter.
Runs until 21 July 2018 | Image: Contributed