Mischief Theatre’s hilarious The Play That Goes Wrong premiered at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London in 2012, before moving to Trafalgar Studios shortly after in 2013. After a successful run at Trafalgar Studios the show went out on tour throughout 2014 before settling at the Duchess Theatre in London where it remains today. Extremely well received by critics and audiences alike, a second UK tour ran from 2017-2018, a Broadway production opened in 2017 at the Lyceum Theatre, an Australian production opened at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne in 2017 and a US Tour ran in 2018 before the Broadway production moved form the Lyceum theatre Off-Broadway to New World Stages in February of this year. Back on this side of the pond, The Play That Goes Wrong is celebrating its fifth birthday this year at the Duchess Theatre. Cracking out candles, birthday cake and balloons, the show held a Birthday Party this week in honour it’s five years in the West End.

The Play That Goes Wrong concerns the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society. In the wake of hits such as The Lion and The Wardrobe, family friendly dance-based musical Cat and James and the Peach or James, Where’s your Peach?, the society receives a substantial bequest and decides to stage a performance of The Murder at Haversham Manor- a 1920s murder mystery play, similar to The Moustrap. However, as the title of the show suggests, everything that can go wrong… does and the calamity stricken drama society try their best to perform The Murder at Haversham Manor through a myriad of mishaps, with hilarious consequences!

As The Murder at Haversham Manor’s passionate director Chris, Jake Curran does an excellent job thanking the audience for coming at the beginning and for (surprisingly) coming back after the interval. His performance in The Murder at Haversham Manor as Inspector Carter is utterly hilarious, especially when one of the many mishaps occur and he breaks character to chastise his fellow cast members as the all-powerful director. Catherine Dryden delivers a fun performance as Sandra. In Haversham Manor she plays damsel Florance Colleymoore and her physical comedy moments provide some of the biggest laughs of the evening. Steven Rostance’s Jonathan has a lot of fun in The Murder at Haversham Manor as the first murder victim Charles Haversham and due to multiple early line delivery mishaps receives a big round of applause when he does finally deliver the line in the correct scene towards the end of the play. Benjamin McMahon as Dennis is a delight throughout. As a younger member of Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, Dennis has been mis-cast as the aged butler of Haversham Manor Perkins. In addition to his already nervous disposition, Dennis forgets to amend lines referring to his characters age and is reprimanded each time by director Chris. Reading larger harder words of dialogue from the back of his hand throughout the performance mispronouncing all of them results in a wonderfully pathetic performance that’s a credit to McMahon’s talent.

Kazeem Tosin Amore ‘s Robert comes across as one of the troupes more serious actors and as tragedy befalls their production, the audience see’s Robert fall gradually deeper into an entertaining type of horrified despair. Amore has a lot of fun with Robert and Haversham Manor character Thomas Colleymoore, really shining in a nightmarish moment where Dennis forgets a line and it throws the group into a never-ending cycle of repeating dialogue. Catherine Dryden gives an uproarious performance throughout as Annie, the jack of all trades backstager of the troupe. As the show progresses Annie assumes many roles, including a mantle piece, and replaces original actor Sandra when injury transpires and she can’t continue her performance of Florence Colleymoore. Starting nervously and reading the lines from the script Valentine comes alive with audience encouragement to a become fully fledged member of the acting troupe. Now a confident actor, Annie refuses to give up her role in the play when Sandra appears back onstage ready to continue and a high-spirited battle ensues between the two. As sound engineer Trevor, Gabriel Paul is boisterously charming. Missing cues due to being on his phone or tying his shoe, Paul’s performance delivers some rib-tickling moments and his turn on stage as Florence Colleymoore when both Annie and Sandra are indisposed was a show-stopping moment. One of the most hilarious performances of the evening came from Bobby Hirston as Max. As the male love interest Cecil Haversham in The Murder at Haversham Manor, Hirston gives a ridiculously energetic performance hand-acting his way through scenes. Breaking character throughout and reverting to actor Max, Hirston gleefully breaks into a dopey smile whenever the audience enthusiastically applauses his onstage antics.

Upon arrival at the press desk I was greeted with a red party bag, like you would receive when leaving a five year olds birthday party. Exploring the contents in my seat it was amusing to see I was now the proud owner of some chattering teeth, small playing cards, the magic hovering fish trick, a whoopy cushion, some whiz fizz and a small bottle of white spirit. Cute! The ensemble cast of The Play That Goes Wrong are extremely tight, giving wonderful performances in technically challenging and non-stop show. Deserving of their standing ovation at the end of the show, it was a real treat at the fifth birthday performance to see the original writers take the stage and previous actors stand and be celebrated with the current cast.

Sans Tom Cruise and a lost dog, The Play That Goes Wrong is still as side-splittingly funny as ever, performed by a cast of loveable hilarious bumbling idiots it’s easy to see why audiences (that didn’t choose to see Mamma Mia! instead) continue to love the show as it celebrates five years at the Duchess Theatre. Remaining one of the best nights out in London, I urge you to support the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s latest endeavour and book to see The Murder at Haversham Manor today!

Reviewed by Stuart James


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