Last week York Theatre Royal saw Mischief Theatre Company’s production of The Play That Goes Wrong – a play that enjoyed two successful runs in the West End due to phenomenal demand and was the sell out smash hit of Edinburgh Festival. As the name suggests it is a play about a play, a whodunit; The Murder at Haversham Manor, produced by the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and anything that could go wrong does in fact go wrong.
Even before the plays begins the audience is aptly treated to a few backstage members ‘fixing’ parts of the stage which are falling apart involving the use of duct tape and a pen to hold together a mantelpiece. The head of the Drama Society and director of The Murder at Haversham Manor steps forward to introduce his play and gets distracted with his anecdotes of previous plays that his company had produced disastrously. What ensued is, indeed, wonderfully disastrous.
The play follows the murder mystery of a man who is not in fact dead, causing initial hilarity when he was stood on, sat on and spat on within the first ten minutes. Props were confused, leading to the cast drinking White Spirit instead of whisky; the stage fell apart continuously and the set was used excellently, with a couple of fantastic illusions and the upper part of the set collapsing very slowly – it was timed to perfection.
The butler Perkins’ sense of humour relied heavily on severe mispronunciation and forgetfulness, whilst the character of Inspector Watson was a clear parallel to that of Basil Fawlty. Characters were knocked out and flattened by doors and ceilings, leading to the brilliantly cast Charlie Russell as Florence Colleymoore being manhandled unconscious around the stage. He is replaced by the initially nervous stage manager (Lotti Maddox) who later discovers a love of the stage and has to resort to physical violence in an attempt to regain her rightful character.
Amongst the immense laughter of the audience were remarks that parts of the play were too farcical but this characteristic broadened the age range of the audience; this play is suitable for anyone over the age of 8. Brilliantly performed and guaranteed to leave you aching with laughter, The Play That Goes Wrong is a delightful comedy and ideal for the family.