The Play That Goes Wrong is an impeccably glorious spoof of such amateur disasters, that centres upon Cornley Polytechnic’s production of ‘Murder at Haversham Manor’ as it descends into a hysterical fiasco that had its audience gasping for breath.
Farcical comedy is familiar to anyone from Shakespeare fans to Fawlty fans, and perhaps a grumblemuffin may call it old-hat, but anyone with a funny-bone has to appreciate the essentially hilarious element of collapsing sets, misplaced props and mistimed lines. On arrival, we were greeted by a sulky sound technician, a very convincing Rob Falconer, who reminded us to look out for his Duran Duran CD while yelling at people to ‘budge up’; it was clear where this was going. However, the predictability of the ensuing debacle only added to the comedy. Indeed, I noticed myself sinfully grinning in expectancy that the female lead was about to get knocked out, or the inspector was about to mistake turps for whisky. I have to say though, that the climactic power reversal was both surprising and darkly funny.
Actors playing actors can be very one-dimensional, but the beauty of The Play That Goes Wrong is in the subtle motivations behind the players themselves. Indeed, Charlie Russell is a very credible queen-bee, so intent on looking glamorous that her supposed horror over her deceased fiancé falls amusingly to the wayside. Dave Hearn was an absolute gem as the adorable schoolboy who expresses his lines via charades; at the sound of our chuckling, he would take a little bow and congratulate himself on such a convincing job well done. Additionally, the comic timing between Henry Lewis and Jonathan Sayer was just theatrical dynamite. Their sheer desperation to get through the play had us crossing fingers with glee by the start, and wiping tears away by the end.
It is not just wandering scenery or slapstick tumbles that the audience has to look forward to though; the script is very clever indeed (kudos to Lewis, Sayer and Shields). There are wonderful moments such as long-suffering inspector, Jonathan (Greg Tannahill), frantically attempting to get the cast back on the right page of the script, and Perkins the Butler conjuring up a groundhog day whirlpool of repetition through his inability to remember who could’ve dunnit.
The Play Goes Wrong does what it says on the tin and more. Fun for all of the family, I have never seen an audience so consistently entertained. A highly intelligent reprisal of the classic farce genre, this distinctly British comedy is set to be the hit of this year’s festival.