Having seen Mischief Theatre’s latest production Peter Pan Goes Wrong last month, I jumped at the chance to see an earlier work, The Play That Goes Wrong, on its national tour last night. The production was a sell-out hit at the Edinburgh Fringe and has enjoyed two consecutive runs in the West End.
In an unforgiving but entertaining take off of “am-dram” theatre, the audience is treated to the (fictional) Cornley Polytechnic’s latest production, The Murder at Haversham Manor. The performance is a complete disaster from start to finish, with forgotten lines, in-cast fighting, injured actors, mixed-up sound cues, prop disasters and repeated catastrophes involving the set.
The (real) actors do an admirable job of portraying the totally ridiculous plot whilst managing to keep it funny. Most of the audience were in hysterics throughout, and there were several impromptu rounds of applause. There was no weak link in the eight-strong cast, with particularly standout performances from Dave Hearn, Lotti Maddox and Rob Falconer.
The set design was as impressive as the acting itself. Its ingenious construction provided the perfect complement to the calamitous turn-of-events, with scenery falling and platforms collapsing with impeccable timing. It was so convincing that I genuinely feared for the safety of the actors on more than one occasion.
The only thing that slightly dulled the experience was that, having watched both of Mischief Theatre’s current offerings, it felt like I had watched the same show twice. Apart from the fact that The Play That Goes Wrong was being ‘staged’ more self-consciously , there was little discernable difference between the two in terms of tone, humour or characters; and some of the jokes were identical. On one hand, the company are clearly onto a winning combination and perhaps it is wise not to mess with this receipe for success. On the other, a little variety is never a bad thing. It would be great to see this very talented company experimenting outside of its comfort zone.
All in all, a hilarious piece of theatre that is well worth watching. The Play That Goes Wrong is on at the Oxford Playhouse until the 1st February, or you can see them in one of the cities on their nationwide tour.