This is simply the best physical comedy seen on stage for a generation. It relies heavily on comedy from the past but this should not be a barrier. It’s impossible for a picture on a poster to convey the cast’s immaculate choreography or for any review to relay the magic of cast and audience interacting through laughter.
The Play That Goes Wrong follows the fictional Cornell Polytechnic production of Murder at Haversham Hall and the ensuing chaos of an opening night where anything that can go wrong does go wrong. The play within the play is the mechanism that is used to highlight some of the ridiculous things which can go wrong on a stage. The use of simple but effective slapstick humour is very funny and the fact that this requires pinpoint timing and skill to perform make this one of the best comedy nights that have come around for years, if the non-stop laughter throughout is anything to go by.
There is not a bungled throw or duck missed and the evening is drawn to a close with a Buster Keaton inspired finale that brings the performance to its inevitable crashing end.
The humour is not only visual but is reminiscent of some of the best verbal fencing since The Two Ronnies. Comparisons could be drawn with One Man, Two Guvnors but this production gets you laughing even before the play starts and keeps the humour going for just under two hours. Even the pauses are funny.
Audience members of all ages are having a ball and even though the ghosts of past comedy greats are certainly hovering, this is new and fresh and hilarious for teenagers too. Our love of watching the misfortune of others trying to wrestle with orchestrated chaos is timeless. The production should be applauded for the energy and true professionalism they show as an ensemble able to perform these “mistakes” nightly.
Praise must go to the set crew and all their tricks, folding sets, magnets and hooks without which we could not have such a fantastic night’s entertainment. Murder at Haversham Hall’s crew of Katie Bernstein and Graeme Rooney are simply incapable of getting anything right.
Patrick Warner gets a special mention for his role as inspector/director and his ability to show his anguish and horror at what’s going on around him in a way that many comedy show lovers will instantly recognise. The role of Sandra, as the leading lady, is played so well by Meg Mortell, Katie Bernstein and by Graeme Rooney. And yes that is correct and not a misprint.
Edward Judge plays Robert and has not only some of the funniest lines, but is also padded out to look like Oliver Hardy and performs some of the more challenging physical comedy with a patience that makes the whole audience react.
Jason Callender is a fantastically ineffectual “corpse”. Alastair Kirton and Edward Howells both provide fantastic support playing actors who are out of their depth. It must be particularly difficult pretending to do something so poorly when every fibre of your acting body wants to do it well.
This week’s run and the continuing tour offer an opportunity to catch something which is on its way to becoming a worldwide phenomenon. It may never be so easy to get tickets again.