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  • Writer's pictureBecky Wallis

The Play That Goes Wrong - Duchess Theatre - Review

Oh look, just when you thought that she may have finally moved on and found something else to obsess over, she’s back and she’s talking about ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ again. Okay, I’ll admit, you may be starting to wonder why on earth I keep going back, or how on earth I still laugh at a comedy that I have now seen 21 times, and I hope you’ll be satisfied with my answer to those questions.

One – I keep going back because it makes me happy, pure and simple. I feel a sense of excitement entering that auditorium and seeing Haversham Manor right there, just awaiting the carnage that is about to unfold and for the just over two hours, I escape.

Two – How can I keep finding it funny? Well again, there’s a simple answer. And that is that it’s always different. There is always something new. With every performance, you notice something else, and every different cast member always brings something unique to their performance.

That brings me to here, as recently a new cast moved into Haversham Manor and I finally got to visit them for the first time, after all, it had been just over 2 months, so a revisit really was overdue. But first, let me fill you in, just in case ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ has never quite reached your radar.

This play within a play follows the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, led by director Chris Bean (played at this performance by (th)understudy Elliot Goodhill in his debut in the role) as they stage a very serious murder mystery. But as the title may suggest it doesn’t quite go according to plan. Lines are forgotten and props misplaced, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The performance sees each cast member playing not one, but two roles, with each playing a member of the calamitous drama society, in turn playing a character within ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’, for example, playing Chris Bean playing Inspector Carter. And something that makes this production oh so wonderful is the fact that each individual performer is given such freedom to make their character their own.

Elliot Goodhill took his Chris debut in his stride, the ever-determined director who insists that the show goes on no matter what. His confident portrayal had the audience hanging on his every word as he became more and more frustrated as the more and more goes wrong. His straight faced stoicism may be the polar opposite to Ross Virgo’s hyperactive forever smiling Max, playing Cecil Haversham, but the pair perfectly balances each other. Virgo is clearly a favourite with the audience, bouncing around the stage with a seemingly endless energy and cheery grin, and effortlessly reacting to what is going on around him with some very quickly thought up improv.

Fellow Thunderstudies Harry Bradley and Rose Meek were also on fine form at the performance I attended, playing Robert as Thomas Colleymoore and Sandra as Florence Colleymoore respectively. Bradley had everyone in stitches as the boisterous Robert, slipping little snippets of improv here and there and feeding off the energy of the audience. Meek’s portrayal of Sandra as Florence was equally giggle inducing, oozing so much sass and fierce leading lady energy.

Luke Dayhill plays Jonathan as Charles Haversham with aplomb, along with a wonderful cheeky side that only goes to prove just how much individualism each person can bring to a character. Keith Ramsey delights as the forgetful Dennis, playing the role of Perkins the Butler. With a near constant wide eyed expression, a single glance is enough for the audience to dissolve into delighted laughter.

As Annie, Cornley’s ever over worked stage manager, Iona Fraser impresses. Her Annie is bold and full of attitude, even if thrown in at the deep end. Gavin Dunn’s sound technician Trevor wins the audience over before the show has even begun in the production’s famous pre-show. Throughout the show, his regular breaking of the fourth wall earns cheers. Hisham Abdel Razek and Tommi Vicky complete the cast as Cornley stagehands, a very important role.

‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ is a shining example of comedy gone right. It’s old school and classic with its slapstick (because someone falling over is always funny), peppered with some wickedly clever wordplay. The interactions between the characters add to the hilarity, and there is always an incredible energy in the room with this production; audience and cast united in two hours of laughter.


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