Today I caught the matinée show of ‘The Play That Goes Wrong‘ a brilliantly slap-stick comedy production, currently being staged at the Duchess Theatre in London’s West End. Offering a “play within a play” this play revolves around a disastrously comical (or should I say comically disastrous?) production of ‘A Murder at Haversham Manor’, being staged by the rather amusing (and so familiarly) amateurish the theatre troupe of the ‘Cornley Polytechnic’.
As a warm-up to the show, cast members, playing the crew, ran about the stage and bar area frantically trying to get the stage ready for the “grand opening” (a nervous energy I remember all too well from having staged a number of college performances). And while, running some 15 minutes, it may seem to drag on a bit, this little warm up was a great way to get the crowd ready for the antics and laughs soon to come.
Once the show within the show started the audience was witness to exactly what you would expect from a play that seemed to prescribe, almost ruthlessly, to Murphy’s Law – everything that could go wrong, did! Hammy actors who couldn’t seem to help but smile awkwardly at receiving applause; missing and/or misplaced props; missed cues and forgotten lines; faulty lighting and music effects; and a stage that was literally falling apart at the seams – everything from a Director’s worst nightmare. And hands off to the actor played said Director (Henry Shields), because he really looked like a poor sod on the verge of a total nervous breakdown as his stage broke down around him. I would say that he, and the man who played Mr. Collimore (Henry Lewis) were the best of the lot. The former for his nervous demeanor and frantic expressions and the latter for his booming voice, which made everything sound so hilariously over the top dramatic (Good lord, I needed that!)
While it may not be the dry english wit many are familiar with, this delightfully silly comedy is just packed, with lots of laughs, a few rather extraordinary surprises (seriously I actually jumped in my seat once or twice) and actors who are so good at being bad that you will be on the edge of your seat with side-splitting laughter, whether you’re a teenager like the chap to my left or a pensioner like the last to my right.
If you have the chance, do go see this play. The Duchess Theatre is a small intimate theatre, where any seat will offer a decent view. And the show will only set you back about 20 quid.
It opens with a whimper, but ends with a bang… And of course it isn’t over till even the chandelier comes down!