As an actor or director, to have one thing go wrong during a performance would be bad enough, but to have everything go wrong would surely be unthinkable. Or not, if you have the foresight of the Mischief Theatre Company, much of whose success is, quite simply built on things going as badly as possible.
The Play that Goes Wrong, does. Spectacularly. What a genius idea to embrace the mishaps that the acting world dreads, and make a very successful comedy out of it. It sounds simple, but the whole script is so well thought-out, that to go against the acting grain and have it appear so natural, surely can’t be.
The alternative ‘whodunnit’ is the play within a play that follows the members of the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society as they perform ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’ and attempt to discover who killed Charles Haversham.
The performance actually began before the curtain rose – easier than it sounds when there is no curtain to begin with… as various cast members hunted for a lost dog. Word of warning – if an actor ever tells you they are looking for someone, don’t respond with the infamous ‘he’s behind you’, unless you’re prepared for some ribbing!
With the dog nowhere to be found – probably off listening to a Duran Duran CD – the actors made their way to the stage, where their ensuing antics had the audience in fits of laughter from the outset. On occasion it was difficult to hear what was being said as roars of laughter drowned out the actors’ performance – I even overheard one theatregoer apologising to their neighbours during the interval for the loudness of their laughter during the first act – a sure sign of a good comedy if ever there was one!
The plot was lightweight but the entertainment came from the talented cast, with each actor bringing their own element of humour to the proceedings to deliver a performance that, quite literally brought the house down.
From Patrick Warner as the President of the Drama Society (aka Inspector Carter) – a cross between Basil Fawlty and Only Fools and Horses’ Boycey – with his comic tale of previous performances that in usual circumstances would have you questioning why you were there, to Alastair Kirton in the role of Cecil, who clearly took delight in performing for an audience – a little like the child who waves to his mum during the school play, and the hilariously over-the-top Meg Mortell as Florence Colleymore.
Praise must also go to those behind the scenes who made sure that every mishap was seamless, but my award of the night goes to Jason Callendar, for his superb display of physical acting in the role of Charles Haversham; the most unconvincing corpse ever, who took a repeated battering, much to the audience’s delight.
The Play That Goes Wrong is proof that you don’t need to spend a fortune on multiple sets, choreography or costumes if the content, i.e. script and talent to deliver it is right, and Mischief Theatre have clearly thought of everything – even down to the spoof programme, which offers a very amusing read during the interval.
My verdict? Great concept, great cast and crew… great night out!
Arm yourself with tissues for when the tears of laughter stream down your face, and be prepared to jump out of your seat on occasion, but don’t miss this feast of comedy genius!
The Play That Goes Wrong is on at The Regent, Stoke-on-Trent until Saturday 6th May. Tickets are available from The Regent Theatre Box Office, by calling 0844 871 7649 or visiting.