Writers: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields
Director: Mark Bell
Reviewer: John Roberts
There’s nothing like a good murder mystery… and this is nothing like a good murder mystery, in fact its abysmal and the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society should be ashamed of their shocking attempt at staging the illustrious Murder at Haversham Manor, in fact one almost walked out after the disastrous first half which saw the set fall apart, actors forgetting their lines and don’t even start me on the unprofessional behaviour of the company before the show had even started.
Thankfully, the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s production is just the framing device for Mischief Theatre’s hilarious, disaster-laden farce which has really become the theatrical success story of the decade. Starting life as a short one-act play above a pub in Islington, The Play That Goes Wrong is now an award-winning production in multiple countries and currently has resident shows on Broadway and the West End.
Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields have arguably written one of the best ever theatrical farces but that is only one small part of the equation that makes this comedy such a winner… You have to give credit to Nigel Hooks for his clever set design, which not only looks the part but falls apart on cue too – much to the shock and awe of the audience in attendance. Director Mark Bell ensures that the pace is snappy and the action never laboured – and finally the tip of the hat has to go to this energetic young cast who fly around the stage with incredible flexibility and comic timing – this is clowning and physical theatre at its best. Strong performances are given by the whole company but one couldn’t help but fall in love with the cheeky charm of Bobby Hirston’s Max, who can win you over with one smile and Louisa Sexton who stood in as Annie at tonight’s performance is delightful as the stagehand come female lead.
If one was to be hyper-critical and sadly it does make an affect on the overall performance its that the Empire Theatre is far too big a theatre to house a show of this style, while the cast excel at keeping the energy high in this barn-like theatre, one can’t help but feel it would have an even bigger impact in one of the city’s smaller venues like the Royal Court or Liverpool Playhouse especially when it comes to hearing everything that is spoken on stage – that said, this is still an incredible production which will guarantee you leave the theatre with aches in all the right places and ensuring that you are next in line for Cornley’s next production of An Audience with: An Audience.
Runs until 14 July 2018 | Image: Robert Day