Tuesday 10 May 2022

The Play that Goes Wrong

 Curve, Leicester

9th May, 2022

The snow’s coming down thick

The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are back again with their production of the classic thriller The Murder at Haversham Manor, which we last reviewed on tour in 2017. You’d think the society would have had a lot of time to sort their act out since then. But I’m delighted to say that, in the time that’s passed, it’s still an utterly calamitous affair: two hours of under-rehearsed amateurs upstaging each other on a dangerous set in a rickety war-horse of a play. But of course, it isn’t really! This is The Play that Goes Wrong, a farce that’s hilarious from start to set-crashing finish in which a terrible amateur drama society attempts to stage a 1920s’ murder mystery.

The Mousetrap was one of the last plays we saw before the pandemic. It was the first time my wife had seen it but she had seen The Play that Goes Wrong. I admit there were parts of it where we found ourselves holding back laughing which reminded us of The Murder at Haversham Manor. In The Play that Goes Wrong, every element of a theatrical farce is wrung to its full potential: Actors wrestle with bits of the set falling apart, doors become stuck, characters mistime their entrances and get lost in the script. Colin Burnicle is particularly impressive as the Director-cum-Inspector. He has the farceur’s knack of trying to keep everything together when it’s clearly falling apart, and is especially funny in a 10 minute side-track dealing with hecklers in the audience. Aisha Numah and Beth Lilly also play off each other really nicely as the stagey actress Sandra and the ASM who gets a taste of her limelight. Kazeem Tosin Amore is also very funny as Robert, an actor who’s love for the game is tested to the limit when forced to drink numerous glasses of white spirit and is almost crushed by furniture on a collapsing platform. But this is an ensemble piece and the whole company make it look effortless. Mischief Theatre’s original show remains an unstoppable sensation ten years on from its premiere in a pub theatre. Now a global hit and having spawned a BBC series and other Goes Wrong spin offs, this latest tour maintains its breathless energy. It’s also great to see it flourish at a time when the mid-large scale touring market is struggling.

When I first saw the West End production, I noted that what really drives the play’s momentum is the notion of carrying on, something which many amateur or student drama groups have enjoyed (perhaps endured!). In farce, no one particularly wants to be in the position that they’re in. But what makes The Play that Goes Wrong special is that, as hapless as the characters might be, they are doing it for the love of theatre. The idea of carrying on, that the show must go on, has gained new relevance in the past couple of years, and this show is all the more joyous for it!

The Play that Goes Wrong plays at Curve, Leicester, until 14th May as part of a UK tour. For further dates, please visit https://www.mischiefcomedy.com/theplaythatgoeswrong-uk-tour/uk-tour/tour-dates

Members from the original cast are returning to the production in Manchester (30th May-4th June) and Newcastle (6th-11th June).

Colin Burnicle in The Play that Goes Wrong. Credit: Robert Day

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