A play-within-a-play, ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ tells the story of the bumbling Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and their woeful attempt to put on a play. The Society’s production of ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’ demonstrates the maxim “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”, leading the poor lead actor/director Chris Bean (Nick Simpson-Deeks) to tears.
In 1920s Britain, someone has been murdered in Haversham Manor. When Charles Haversham’s (still moving) corpse is discovered, Inspector Carter is called in to discover whodunit. Was it Charles’ fiancée, Florence Colleymoore (Brooke Satchwell)? Was it her brother, and best friend of the deceased, Thomas Colleymoore (Luke Joslin)? Was it the dead man’s brother, Cecil (James Marlow)? Or the butler, Perkins (George Kemp), in the dining room with a candelabra?
For those who love this type of comedy, this will be the best production you see all year – some audience members had tears running down their faces. Never has a corpse been so funny. Never have so many pictures fallen off walls. Never have so many stage cues or prop prompts been missed. This pace of the comedy was brilliant. No opportunity was missed to make a silly joke, but it never felt forced or overly hammed up.
The actors are all completely committed to their characters, and even the programme is for ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’. This commitment is crucial, because there is a slapstick joke literally every minute. Any hint that the actors were not fully behind the physical comedy would have made the whole evening painful. It is reminiscent of the 'Three Stooges', so if this type of comedy isn’t for you, it’s best to give this play a miss.
Brooke Satchwell of 'Neighbours' fame is a particular delight, with her affected 'Theatre Dahling!' accent. The fights between her and her stand-in are cringe worthy, but only because they are so believable. The audience gasped every time one of their heads – or indeed, entire bodies – were banged into a wall.
All of the characters were wonderful, from the snobby Thomas Colleymoore to Trevor (Adam Dunn), purveyor of Light and Sound and avid Duran Duran fan. You can guess from that description that many of the things that go wrong are squarely Trevor’s fault. However, the stand out by far is Chris Bean, who both directs and plays the lead as Inspector Carter.
His earnest welcoming of the audience, his high hopes for the production, and his high pitched keening when it all goes wrong humanise the chaos and bring a touching dimension to all the good-natured carnage.
'The Play That Goes Wrong' Tour Dates4-14 May – Queensland Performing Arts Centre
16-21 May – Roslyn Packer Theatre (Sydney)
31 May-11 June – His Majesty's Theatre (Perth)