REVIEW: THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG (The Lighthouse, Poole) ★★★★

Some plays make the audience smile, others even manage to draw out a chuckle, but THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG had its audience hooting with laughter and tearing up with its dangerously well-designed disasters. After the BBC TV production of PETER PAN GOES WRONG was aired following its filming in front of a live studio audience, the infamous group behind this play gained even more poularity than before and played to a sold out auditorium both last night and the night before.

An Olivier Award-winning hit from the West End, the play centres around the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society as they attempt to put on a production of a 1920’s murder mystery. The true test of a good actor is their ability to portray a bad actor, and every single cast member was brilliant in their roles. Packed with falling set, breaking props, wrong lines and stunts that involved fire, violence, falling from the tops of things and many people being knocked unconscious, it was a slapstick comedy from the start to the end.

The atmosphere was set from the beginning, before the play even started. As the audience were welcomed in, members of the cast who played the stage crew were looking for the dog Winston for the second act because he had run away, asking members of the audience if they had seen him and the sound of barking was sometimes played over the speakers. As well as this some of the set was still being duct taped in place – duct tape is a techie’s best friend after all.

The set was remarkable, going from pristine to completely wrecked by the fall of the final curtain. Patrick Warner played the role of Chris Bean, the director and one of the actors in the performance. Reminiscent of John Cleese as Basil Fawlty, Warner played the role of the gangly, well-spoken man with a slight temper. His realisation of the role was superb, to the point that when an audience member sneezed during the performance he stopped and said ‘bless you’ to him because that is what his character would have done, earning a hearty piece of laughter.

Jason Callender played Jonathon playing Charles Haversham, the first murder victim. As such, he did not say a great deal yet he stood out for his physical humour and comedic timing. Edward Judge played Robert who played the role of Thomas Colleymoore, the aggressive brother to Florence Colleymoore, fiancée to Charles Haversham. He performed fantastically, his reaction to the ledge collapsing underneath him was well-executed and believable despite how farcical it was. Alastair Kirton’s portrayal of Max was spot on. His cute, bashful smile and sweet personality shone through the roles of Cecil Haversham and the gardener to make him a truly likeable and amusing character. The way that Edward Howells mispronounced the words that he read from his hands as Dennis added to the humour of the piece. Graeme Rooney played Trevor the Stage Manager who ended up onstage reading in for Florence after both Sandra and Annie were knocked out. His Scottish accent, reluctance to perform and bad temper were balanced to create a humorous character, making the part when Florence and Cecil kiss even funnier.

A laugh-out-loud production that never stopped generating a reaction. Filled with both predictable and unexpeceted mistakes and stunts, it is a must-see for any fan of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Fawlty Towers. A great way to spend an evening, and an hilarious reminder that theatre is live and that really anything can happen at any night.

Reviewed by Thomas Barrett