The Play That Goes Wrong – Review

It’s been seven years since Mischief Theatre unleashed their jaw-droppingly hilarious stage comedy, The Play That Goes Wrong, on unsuspecting theatre-goers and the audience laughter hasn’t stopped.

From a fringe improv show that tried out, succeeded, then won awards at Edinburgh, to a West End opening and global domination, it’s a show that keeps on giving. It doesn’t matter how many times you see it I guarantee they’ll be something new to invoke jaw-dropping hysterics.

The company’s fourth UK tour ends at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre this Saturday (though it has reopened in the West End for a long residency at the Duchess Theatre) and it was a rib-tickling delight to catch up with it.

I’m pleased to report that the pratfalls and pitfalls of the Cornley Polytechnic Society’s Am-Dram group are as fresh and funny as they ever were.

And after the last year or so, when most of us have forgotten how to laugh, watching this theatrical favourite is just the tonic.

Mischief was formed in 2008 by a group of stage school chums and their success is an inspiration to anyone wanting to enter the precarious world of acting.

They wrote, produced and directed (and probably made the sets and costumes too) an inaugural comedy – The Play That Goes Wrong – referencing vaudeville and vintage slapstick to come up with more than two hours of riotous comedy that is, literally, about a play that goes wrong. 

Some of the gags and bits of business would be reckless and downright dangerous in amateur hands but this is a company that prides itself in finding laughs in the most hazardous of situations.

The terrifically game leading ladies – April Hughes and Laura Kirman – come off worse, being knocked out and manhandled throughout the production but, to be honest, pretty much every actor suffers for their art.

The am-dram players are staging a country house whodunit. The set’s not ready, props not in place, and Trevor, the lighting and sound man, has misplaced both a small dog and his Duran Duran box set. It doesn’t bode well.

The ‘direct-orr’ (Tom Bulpett’s wonderfully melodramatic Cornley head, Chris Bean) makes his excuses to the audience before the curtain’s up but, nonetheless, The Murder at Haversham Manor, will debut, come what may.

Charles is dead – at least he’s supposed to be – but Sean Carey’s Jonathan finds it hard to play a corpse when other players keep stepping on his fingers and a stretcher mishap leaves him exiting stage left on his knees.

Did Perkins the butler do it? Dear Dennis (Edward Howells) has enough trouble getting his tongue around the wordy dialogue much less play an assassin. Or was it Charles’s spiffing fiancee, the racy Florence (Hughes) or even, gasp, Charles’s own brother, Cecil?

And trying to unravel the mystery – not entirely successfully – is Inspector Carter (director Bean again).

It’s manic with bedlam frequently breaking out as cast and company try to get through the performance without losing anyone to exploding sets, smacking doors and collapsing floors.

Tom Babbage is a treat as Cornley’s Max Bennett whose debut as Cecil is a real hoot. He grins gormlessly at the audience, forgets his cues and regularly explodes in a riot of wriggling limbs.

And Howells wins the sympathy vote as the eager but incompetant Cornley newboy Dennis who has to write the long words (sadly without their pronunciation) down on his hand.

The Play That Goes Wrong is so accomplished that it’s hard to believe that it was Mischief’s inaugural production. 

And if you enjoyed the show then look forward to the company’s other tours, Groan Ups and Magic Goes Wrong, both appearing at Aylesbury Waterside in the New Year.

The Play That Goes Wrong
  • The Play That Goes Wrong
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Summary

Mischief Theatre ends the fourth UK tour of its award-winning comedy, The Play That Goes Wrong, on a high at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Jaw-dropping hilarious

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