ComedyReviewSouth East

The Play That Goes Wrong – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Writers: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields
Director: Mark Bell
Reviewer: Lu Greer

Watching a production, starring the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, of The Murder at Haversham Manor progressively go from bad to worse due to a lack of talent, budget, luck, or common sense should mean that any audience is in for a very long night. This is not, of course, the case with this show. The Play that Goes Wrong follows the fortunes of a luckless troop as everything that can possibly go wrong on stage does and is delivered with near perfect timing, dry wit, and some ingenious stage design.


All the well-known character stereotypes grace the stage from the naïve newbie, to the overpowering leading lady, to the character incapable of learning his lines. The director of this manic ensemble, Chris Bean (Patrick Warner), sets the scene before the audience ever reach their seats as he whirls and panics around the auditorium trying to put out fires before they happen and to track down an elusive dog with an energy that doesn’t drop until the final curtain.

The stand-out moments of the show, however, come from two characters whom in any other show would surely go almost unnoticed: The corpse, and the lighting and sound operator. In his role as the body of Charles Havisham/Jonathan Harris, Jason Callender brings a genuinely lively and carefully considered performance that brings laugh after laugh. Meanwhile, Graeme Rooney, monitoring sound and lighting from the side of the stage, still manages to create quite possibly the most loved character of the show – not least for his portrayal of one of Florence’s ‘episodes’.

What makes this show remarkable though, is the visual representation of it falling apart. With set pieces collapsing before the show even begins, and often adding to the chaos of the show, it becomes another character on the stage; trying to hold everything together stage left as everything unexpectedly collapses stage right. The show arguably flags a little in Act 2, with the chaos simply becoming too much at one point to focus in on any one joke to generate a genuine laugh. However, it is at this point that the set designs reach a new level and bring out even more hilarity from the show.

With its combination of wit, slapstick, timing, and chaos it must be said the show in which everything goes wrong, more or less, gets everything right.

Runs until 17 June 2017 | Image: Helen Murray

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The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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