Saturday, 13 July 2013



Theatre Run: Until 20th July (Trafalgar Studios, London), 31 July - 26 August (Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh)
Performance Reviewed: Friday 12 July, 7:45pm

Reviewed by Kyle Pedley

The Play That Goes Wrong is quite simply brilliant.

And whilst that may be an uncharacteristically succinct and to-the-point opener, it is perfectly in keeping with the brilliantly resourceful and hilariously efficient job the team at Mischief Theatre do with this relentlessly funny slice of comedic farce. 

Having gone through a number of iterations and the odd cast change since its first performance in the Old Red Lion Theatre in Angel, The Play That Goes Wrong has since made the move to a more prolific and centralised venue in the Trafalgar Studios, where it is taking part in an extended run due to (unsurprising) popular demand before moving up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at the end of July. Given its limited run in the city, those who are fans of original, inventive farce and inoffensive, family-friendly comedy as a whole should stop reading right now and just go book your tickets while you can, it really is that good.

For those not yet convinced, it is quite ironic, albeit pure coincidence, that I review this particular show only a matter of weeks after visiting the current touring production of seminal farce Noises Off, as it seems difficult to discuss The Play That Goes Wrong without alluding to that particular Frayn classic. However, despite the passing similarities on paper - both deal with a disastrous staging of a play-within-a-play where anything that can go wrong does so in spectacular fashion - they are nonetheless very different entities. Where Noises Off is an extended piece which dips into the behind-the-scenes politics and relationships of the fictitious cast of actors, The Play That Goes Wrong is far more self contained and never feels the need to ‘pull back the curtain’ so to speak - as an audience we are treated solely to the disastrous performance of play-within-a-play ‘The Murder At Havisham Manor’ from start to finish and all of the hilarious wordplay, mishaps and mayhem that plague the doomed production in the course of its single performance. As mentioned, it is a remarkably confident and efficient piece of comedy that fits a staggering amount of invention into a lean one hour running time that feels perfectly paced without seeming slight. As such, those who have any particular feeling towards Frayn’s show, be they positive or negative, should not let it deter or influence their decision to see The Play.

In the more immediate confines of Trafalgar Studios studio two the amateur dramatics facade plays perfectly - it would be difficult to not envisage some of the immediacy and indeed warmth of The Play That Goes Wrong being lost in a more sizeable venue or auditorium. From a wonderfully witty and self-deprecating opening speech from the fictional company manager (lamenting how the lack of involvement in their am dram group has led to radically cutback productions such as Andrew Lloyd-Webbers ‘Cat’, for instance) the laughs start early and never let up. Writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, who also all take starring roles in the production, along with director Mark Bell have crafted a terrific and superbly paced show here - one that rips along with such a comedic frenzy and tireless invention that there is practically always something hilarious happening or developing on stage. To delve into specifics or provide too many examples would ruin what is a very clever but nonetheless incredibly accessible slice of comedic brilliance, but it’s fair to say the comedy is wonderfully diverse and inspired in running the whole gamut of potential problems that can hit an amateur production such as the one the show presents. Actors miss their cues, misplaced props cause mayhem, doors refuse to open, the shows big reveal is repeatedly spoilt long before the finale, one mistake snowballing into a cavalcade of others - wonderfully physical slapstick, some brilliant wordplay and of course, terrific timing and instincts from the entire cast all cement what is probably the funniest single hour of theatre I have seen in a considerable time, and undoubtedly one of the funniest shows you can see in London.

Once again enormous credit must go to the incredibly game cast, who are uniformly excellent and thankfully devoid of any weak links. Charlie Russell as a brilliantly over-the-top actress attempting to thrust sex appeal out of practically every line and gesture is a particular highlight, as is Henry Lewis who is a real bombastic presence as actor Robert, eventually raging and booming his way through the role of Thomas in the manner of an inflated, incensed British countryside Kelsey Grammer. Jonathan Sayer is consistently hilarious as thespian Dennis portraying put-upon butler Perkins, whilst Dave Hearn gives an adorably earnest turn as Max, the irrepressible member of the fictional cast who frequently breaks out of character to enjoy and appreciate the audience reaction to the show collapsing about him, and has devised an extremely physical and hilariously demonstrative acting technique all of his own. 

In all, The Play That Goes Wrong does not loftily attempt to be anything other than a very silly and very funny stab at theatrical comedy farce, and succeeds completely. The play-within-a-play approach may not be particularly original, but this is a show which admirably strips back a lot of the excess and padding and instead opts for all-out, continued madness, and is laugh-out-loud funny throughout as a result. With its relatively short running time, smaller venue and am-dram approach it feels fresh, succinct, original and immediate and cultivates a community and culture of comedy that is lost in bigger-budget shows. It’s popularity in London and eventual transfer to Edinburgh is encouraging and it is re-assuring to see such great new theatre talent getting the audience demand and reception they wholly deserve, having crafted in The Play That Goes Wrong a tirelessly hilarious slice of extremely efficient theatre funny that goes straight for the funnybone and ends up being very, very right indeed.

(A)MUSINGS RATING - * * * * * (5 out of 5 Stars)

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG is running at Trafalgar Studios, Studio Two in London until Saturday 20 July 2013. It then moves to the Pleasance Courtyard in Edinburgh from 31 July until 26 August.

CLICK HERE for more information on the shows' run at Trafalgar Studios and to book your tickets!
Alternatively phone the Telepone Booking line on 0844 871 7627.

CLICK HERE for more information on the shows' run at The Pleasance Courtyard in Edinburgh and to book your tickets.

Press tickets for this performance of The Play That Goes Wrong were provided courtesy of Mobius Pr. (A)musings Media gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation.

1 comment:

  1. good movie review :) gonna read the latest movie reviews, can be directly to happy reading :)


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