Given the choice when it comes to films, telly and stage shows, I tend to opt for thrills and chills rather than lots of laughs. I can usually be found watching psychological dramas and horror flicks rather than the latest romantic comedy. However, when a good piece of comedy entertainment falls within my radar, I’ll usually end up having a whale of a time – so when the opportunity to check out The Play That Goes Wrong came up, I jumped at it (despite needing to be up for a festival first thing the next morning…)
Before watching The Play That Goes Wrong, I actually knew very little about who was behind it – the answer to this being the delightfully named Mischief Theatre Company, set up in 2008 by a group of LAMDA graduates. Having studied drama at Uni, it’s pretty darn unlikely for any trained actor to walk out and be guaranteed a steady career, and I’m always impressed when graduates decide to go all out and present their own work rather than just hoping the next audition will go well. In the case of Mischief Theatre, it definitely paid off, with The Play That Goes wrong receiving rave reviews and celebrity fans.
The show began its life in 2012, in a pub I know pretty well – the Old Red Lion in Angel, Islington. Ever since, it’s made its way to the West End, premiering at its current home of the Duchess Theatre in September 2014. However, despite the skyrocketing success to a much larger venue, it still has an incredibly immersive and intimate feel. From the moment an audience member sets foot in the auditorium, they’ll find themselves instantly immersed in the play’s world – with ‘stage hands’ fiddling around with the set and chatting to the audience about a missing four-legged cast member. Immediately being drawn into the world of the company brought an instant connection.
As someone who grew up being involved in the theatre, the play-within-a-play framing concept the whodunit Murder at Haversham Manor definitely appealed to me. The involvement of the ‘Stage Manager’ and Stage Hand characters was a real highlight, and the hammed-up acting from the performers demonstrated how comedic am-dram can be. I’m not actually a big ‘laugh out loud’ person at comedy performances, but I found myself regularly chuckling at the antics on stage. There were aspects of the show I didn’t perhaps find as hilarious as the rest of the audience, but there was plenty to giggle at and a fair few instances where the audience drowned out the crowd. The ‘messy’ feel of the performance was actually perfectly executed by a capable cast – although a few characters sometimes felt slightly strained and more OTT than they needed to be for the comedic effect to work. That being said, there were some running jokes (particularly around the mispronunciation of lines) that really tickled me, and I came out of the show smiling and very understanding when it comes to the show’s stratospheric rise.
To end this post in a wonderfully clichéd, cheesy, put-it-on-the-poster review style – if you love a bit of silly, mischevious humour with plenty of riotous slapstick, The Play That Goes Wrong goes very, very right.