The Play That Goes Wrong is reminiscent of Noises Off, but a whole lot funnier. It’s always a tonic to go to the theatre on a grey November evening; but this show should be on prescription. I left the theatre with aching jaws and not a care in the world.
The farce has already begun as the audience take their seats, when the stage hands are building the set and dealing with a mantelpiece, door, broom and various props that will not behave. The realisation dawns slowly that one of the stage crew has in fact been randomly selected from the audience to give a hand – quite literally. It’s very, very funny to watch.
The plot of the play within a play is simple enough – an amateur dramatic group – the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society – staging a murder mystery in a country house. The untimely demise of a young society gentleman, Charles Haversham, on the evening of his engagement party means that the killer and weapon can only be amidst the assembled guests. Enter the local detective to solve the case and the chaos begins.
The show staggers from scene to scene amidst tumbling props, and a car crash of unfortunate mishaps, too numerous to mention, played with such impeccable comic timing that I was literally rendered helpless with laughter on many occasions.
To single out just one outstanding incident, the leading lady meets her Waterloo in an unplanned accident, and is replaced by a backstage hand of very different size and stature, accompanied by a script as she is not prepared for her unexpected moment of stardom. Her attempts to throw herself into the role of Florence Colleymore are uproariously funny – a combination of losing her place in the script, intonations which entirely change the meaning of what she is saying, and ad libbing in such a brilliant and entirely over the top way that she becomes the star of the show.
It’s hard to believe that the high level of superb farce can be maintained for the best part of two hours, but amazingly the standard never slip and the audience is captivated throughout.
Testament to the quality of the play was spotting comedian Paul Merton in the audience, laughing and enthusiastically applauding – the cast can only have been delighted with this seal of approval from one of the most successful comedians in the business.
The standing ovation at the end was more than deserved, and the audience left the theatre in high spirits. There can be no finer antidote to the winter blues than laughter – treat yourself to a brilliant night out at The Play that Goes Wrong, and I can guarantee that you will feel like you have had a week off work by the end of it.