Reviewed by Dotty Winters
As the title suggests, this production features a play within a play. The hapless, but enthusiastic members of Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are staging a performance of The Murder at Haversham Manor, a (fictitious) 1920’s murder mystery. In the true-spirit of farce, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. As the play progresses, the ridiculousness and pace increase, reducing the audience to helpless laughter. The increasingly unfortunate scenarios are very well constructed, the audience laughing both in response to the unfolding chaos and as they anticipate the next mishap. The sheer idiocy is joyful, and the interplay between the on-stage and back-stage characters is particularly well-observed. Anyone who has ever had any involvement in amateur dramatics will spot plenty of relatable scenarios, as props, sets, egos and ambition conspire to ruin every element of the Director’s grand vision.
The Mischief Theatre company who are behind The Play that Goes Wrong have their roots in comedy improv, and their comedic background shows, they deliver a perfect balance between larger-than-life characters with brilliantly subtle detail. They manage to portray ever increasing ridiculousness without it ever tipping-over into being wearying, repeatedly coaxing the audience into yet another laugh with a well-timed eye-brow raise, sigh or sob. Their physicality and reactions are skillfully calibrated; they bring a freshness and modernity to a concept which has been around for a long time.
The cast were, without exception, brilliant, but the secret star of this show is the set, which has endless potential, no end of surprises and some of the best comedic timing you’ll ever see.
Live comedy is an incredible treat, it would take a particularly stubborn grump not to give into the infectiousness of a roomful of people belly laughing. My companion and I both left the theatre with aching sides and that particular sort of happy exhaustion that only a thoroughly good laugh can provide.
We saw the performance in the ever-excellent Regent’s Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent. This theatre is centrally-located, easy to find (and park near) and has friendly and knowledgeable staff.
There is something delightful about pure, unadulterated silliness, well, and knowingly delivered. This play offers total escapism with a huge dose of laughter.
Tickets cost from £14.90 to £33.90 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
The Play That Goes Wrong is at the Regent Theatre in Stoke from 1-6 May 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/regent-theatre or call the box office on 0844 871 7649.
Regent Theatre, Piccadilly, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1 1AP | 0844 871 7649