The Play That Goes Wrong. It does exactly what it says on the tin. This show starts before you have taken your seat with Trevor and Annie fixing props on the stage. They even ask an audience member to help them out. The audience laughs but are still unsure if this is part of the show, so they are a bit hesitant.
Once Trevor gets off the stage and the Director from the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society introduce the play we are about to see, The Murder at Haversham Manor, which is a 1920’s murder mystery. He explains that previous shows including The Lion and The Wardrobe, Cat, and James and the Peach have not been huge successes but this will be fine as they now have the right number of actors for the show.
The curtain goes up before it should and the person who should have been murdered is still getting into position on the stage. Two more actors enter and accidentally tread on his hand, which then slowly moves under the chaise longue. It sets the scene for the next two hours of pure joy of laughter. It is a very slapstick affair and as we get to know each character better the play slowly falls apart including the stage. There are some moments that you cannot help but gasp – it really is a show like no other.
There are some lovely moments, for example when Trevor mistakenly plays a Duran Duran track instead of some mood music. As the mantelpiece falls apart, Annie stands in holding the candlesticks and even a cigarette case in her mouth at one point. And there are some really inventive ways of using the telephone on stage.
They are real troupers continuing on with the script no matter what which is not always in their favour. They misplace the whiskey so improvise (all good thespians can do improv darhling!) with white spirit which they obviously do not want to drink. The mispronunciation is another particular joy to look out for as is the individual personalities coming through. This show is absolutely hysterical and the comic timing is the best I have ever seen.
This show has won awards, including the Olivier Award Winner for Best New Comedy in 2015 and they are deserved winners. The current performers are very well cast and the show is everything you would not want to happen in a show. As someone who has trod the boards myself, it makes you really appreciate that the writers of this have thought about every possible thing that could go wrong – and possibly experienced a few of them.
I tell you completely straight up – this is a really funny play that will ensure your jaw aches from laughing.
The Play That Goes Wrong is on at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 18 March.