Writer: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields
Director: Mark Bell
Reviewer: Jo Payne
First performed a mere 4 years ago, The Play That Goes Wrong has taken London, the UK and the world by storm. It is no surprise at all that this is the case as sometimes the most successful shows have the simplest concept. For this show, an amateur dramatic society puts on a murder mystery play, namely Murder at Haversham Manor, and everything that possibly can go wrong does, and more! The resulting calamity is awkward, painful, and above all, hilarious.
The action begins just before curtain up – so be sure to arrive early! Winston, the production’s dog, has gone missing and actors scurry through the audience desperately searching for him prior to the show’s start, setting the tone for the rest of the evening. Although it’s worth knowing that the position of your seat could result in you being invited onto the stage. The crew need all hands on deck to get the show up-and-running in time; they desperately don’t want to start late but the fireplace is broken.
Mark Bell has ensured excellent use of every possible angle of slapstick comedy, with his cast timed to perfection in their delivery. Bobby Hirston (Max) becomes an audience favourite as he portrays an awkward amateur actor revelling in every moment of his starring role, often being distracted by the audience’s reaction and joining in with their applause and laughter. At one point, Jake Curran (Chris) rightfully reprimands those in the auditorium for their “rude” jeers and “unnecessary” laughter. It’s easy to lose track of the body count as actors are knocked out, hidden away, murdered and moved so often. Trevor (Gabriel Paul), the techie, is more worried about his lost Duran Duran CD than providing timely cues for the murder mystery play.
Many of the problems in the show come from a hazardous set; when in other plays one would ask how everything goes right on time, in this show it’s more appropriate to ask how everything goes wrong on time. The cast make it incredibly easy to suspend your disbelief, enjoy the show and be carried away laughing in your seat. However, the most perceptive members of the audience can sometimes guess what disaster is on the horizon but this rarely takes away from the humour of it.
What is particularly refreshing about this show is it is a production which can be enjoyed by adults and children alike, with both chuckling along simultaneously. It is rare to see something so funny that is (mostly) appropriate for all ages. As this Brighton run falls at the end of the school summer holidays, it provides the perfect opportunity to introduce children to the joys of live theatre amongst a packed audience.
Runs until 1 September 2018