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  • Writer's pictureBecky Wallis

The Play That Goes Wrong - Duchess Theatre London Review

Updated: Sep 5, 2022

So, it turns out that going wrong isn’t always a bad thing.

Who would have thought that a little play about a drama company trying to put on a play when everything that could go wrong does exactly that would become one of the most successful stage comedies around? But here we are. That little show that started its life in a pub theatre is now a huge hit. It’s about to celebrate its eighth birthday and has become the longest running show ever to play in London’s Duchess Theatre. Long story short, Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong is a hit.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Hasn’t Curtain’s Up reviewed this one before? The simple answer? Yes. On multiple occasions actually. I am no stranger to this one, with this visit actually being my 15th trip to Haversham Manor, and I know that you may wonder how on earth I can see it that many times and still laugh, and how on earth I can possibly review it so many times, but I can do both those things because this is a show that is different every single time.

The Play That Goes Wrong follows a play inside a play concept, introducing us to Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society as they attempt to stage a very serious murder mystery entitled ‘The Murder At Haversham Manor’. But things don’t go according to plan. Lines are forgotten and mixed up, props develop a tendency to disappear, the set misbehaves, and the cast may be faced with one or two small accidents, risking a fair amount of injury.

Mikhail Sen’s Chris Bean is the director, desperate for things to go right and not afraid to put his actors in their place when they get distracted or go wrong. It is this dedication to sticking to the script as he plays the role of Inspector Carter that gets Chris into some sticky situations, with Sen having to take on some stunts alongside Tendai Humphrey Sitima’s Robert. He also shows off his improv skills throughout, interacting directly with the audience and handling their heckles with ease. As Robert playing Thomas Colleymoore, Tendai Humphrey Sitima shines. The character of Robert Grove is larger than life, believing himself to be a great actor who can do no wrong and Sitima makes the character his own. At the show I attended, he delivered a ridiculously funny improv scene declaring himself to be little Terrance the cricket exterminator with an authentic cockney accent and delighted in replying to the heckles from giggling children who just loved to wind him up.

Scott Hunter’s Max has the audience is their side from early on, constantly breaking the fourth wall in fits of giggles and loving every moment as they put actions to their dialogue, often getting distracted and playing up for the audience. It’s impossible not to laugh along with them. As Jonathan, playing Charles Haversham, Oliver Mott is given moments to shine, throwing themselves around the stage and earning big laughs as he tries his best to just get things right and not get in the way. Tomisin Ajani excels as stage techie Trevor, with his interactions with the audience really drawing everyone into the action, especially in his big act two scene when he made everyone help with his episode. It is these breaking the fourth wall moments that really make this play stand out, with the audience made to feel a part of the show.

Ashh Blackwood plays stage manager Annie, forced to take on a leading role and discovering that life on the stage is fun after all. A hilarious performance as Blackwood delights at things not going to plan and battles Sandra (played at this performance by (th)understudy Emily Waters) for the spotlight in the role of Florence Colleymoore, with wickedly funny consequences. Waters’ Sandra isn’t one for wanting to share the attention, bossing around Scott Hunter’s Max, and posing at any given opportunity, all whilst not being afraid to break character to tell others what to do, especially Tomisin Ajani’s Trevor.

Charlie Richards took on the role of Dennis, playing the role of Perkins, at this performance and he really made the role his own. One of the many things that I love about the Play That Goes Wrong is the way in which each performer is able to add their own style to the characters, and here Richards did exactly that with Dennis with exaggerated gestures and little actions that just really stood out and made the character all the move lovable. The cast was completed by Roisin Fahey and Jack Whittle as Cornley Stagehands/ASM’s, adding in little moments as they tried to keep up with everything that was going on. This is a show that really is a group effort.

Speaking as someone who has seen this show 15 times and still laughs like crazy every time, this is a show that really needs to be seen if you love old school silly comedy. It’s all about falling over, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and simply pushing slapstick as far as it can go. In a display of perfectly choreographed calamity, this cast puts on a show that will have you laughing out loud from the preshow to the post show speech, and will have you walking out of the theatre with a Duran Duran song stuck in your head, thanks for that Trevor.

You can book tickets to The Play That Goes Wrong here


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