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What We're Watching - Theatre Review. The Play That Goes Wrong


For a non-musical show to attain the dizzy heights of ‘West End Smash’, and run in London for several years, you know it must be good. That’s why as soon as the tour of The Play That Goes Wrong was announced at the Lowry Theatre, I was straight on the internet to book.

Mischief Theatre certainly ensure you get your money’s worth. As the audience gather, the lead actor mills about them at front of house, looking for the dog used in the production that has ran away, and the stage manager (Kate Bernstein) and sound engineer (Graeme Rooney) try to tame the elaborate but badly-behaved set (which is as much a star as the rest of the cast), hilariously recruiting a member of the audience to help, but to no avail.

It’s a knockabout slapstick about an amateur theatre company’s production of an Agatha Christie style Murder Mystery. The actors are terrible, and the set collapses around them, but they all continue stoically trying to keep it on track. And that’s about all you need to know! The cast are made of all the usual characters, the star struck wide eyed hero that mugs to the crowd for cheers (Alistair Kirton); the exasperated theatre company president, losing his temper as all crumbles around him(Patrick Warner); and the warring wannabe divas, scrabbling to hog the limelight, although one of them is a press ganged stage manager, after the female lead (Meg Mortell) is inevitably knocked out cold.

It’s hard to pick a favourite, but for me, the badly treated corpse of the Lord of the Manor (Jason Callender) steals the show every time. Due to several malfunctions, including broken stretchers and slipping off mezzanines, he always ends up where the script deems he should not be, and his under stated attempts to exit unseen are priceless.

As with any slapstick show, the key is to keep escalating, and my goodness they do! The stunts become more elaborate, the set is destroyed further, and there is even a magic trick and some good old seaside postcard titillation as well. The sight gags are extended ridiculously to just before breaking point. A sequence with the cast holding up parts of the set in more and more creative ways is only topped in the second act by Edward Judge’s heroics in stopping the entire contents of the mezzanine room slipping off the stage whilst answering the phone.

It’s very hard to fault this show. I have seen more wince inducing clashes, you often seen punches and doors not quite connecting, but that goes with the shambolic nature of the piece. The last five minutes are incredibly chaotic, and you need an extra pair of eyes to take in everything that is happening, but when your escalation game is notched up to 11 from the start, this is where it will take you!

Despite being hilarious all the way through, there is something incredibly British about the whole production. The stiff upper lipped-ness (I’d like to hear the butler’s pronunciation of that!) of carrying on through the destruction is what this great nation was built on. In a time of massive uncertainty and sorrow, we can always turn to British stupidity to escape it for a couple of hours. And when it’s this good, it will stay with you for a lot longer.

The Play That Goes Wrong is touring nationwide. See the company’s website for details:

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