REVIEW: The Play That Goes Wrong, New Victoria Theatre

Mischief is bringing the laughs to audiences around the country in this new UK tour of the brilliant and cleverly staged production.

Photos of the previous cast by Robert Day.

The Play That Goes Wrong is a rare show in which it is completely delightful to see a production going hopelessly and utterly wrong. Whether it is a troublesome door, the cast being knocked out for one reason or another or even attempting to find the dog Winston for the performance – there is plenty of humour that will appeal to audiences young and old.

Half of the fun of this show is not knowing when it actually begins, as the cast interact with the audience initially while disastrous preparations for ‘The Murder at Havesham Manor’ by Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society happen on stage. Aside from the fact that it allows the audience prior knowledge of what to expect, it makes the audience feel very much part of the show (of which there are several instances dotted throughout the production).

Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, The Play That Goes Wrong takes every element of a typical murder mystery and uses it to comical effect as the cast and creative team involved with the production increasingly despair of making it through the production. But as well as the comedy in the script itself, it is also the physical elements that just add really nice touches – including the way in which Max (a wonderfully energetic Tom Babbage) highlights every point he makes with a flamboyant gesture of move or the way in which the corpse is forced to be more active then you would expect. It is a joyful, silly and entertaining show from start to finish.

Another important element to ensure that the audiences are laughing from start to finish is the way in which the set is used and plays very much a key part in why The Murder at Havesham Manor goes so horribly wrong – leading to some impressive physical feats by the cast in an attempt to keep it together. The audience is never sure what is going to happen next – with plenty of moments building up to the punchline of the joke beautifully and keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. Designed by Nigel Hook, it is certainly as much a star of the show as the cast is.

The cast themselves really throw themselves into each (and increasingly ridiculous) situation with great energy and attention to detail that keeps the audience thoroughly engaged from start to finish. On occasion perhaps there are times when it feels some of the characterisations are a bit over the top and could use a little toning down and have a little more faith in the writing and let the comedy happen naturally – but at the same time the audience are having too much fun to really be overly troubled by this. All of the cast really excel in highlighting the different types of characters you can find in a theatre group.

Overall, The Play That Goes Wrong is a laugh-out-loud and entertaining experience – while perhaps some of the silliness won’t appeal to everybody – there is no denying that this is a very cleverly put together production. Worth checking out if you can.

By Emma Clarendon

The Play that Goes Wrong continues to play at the New Victoria Theatre until the 9th October. It will then continue to tour the UK.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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