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  • Writer's pictureBecky Wallis

The Play That Goes Wrong - Duchess Theatre West End Review

Updated: Apr 28, 2022

Mischief Theatre have well and truly made a name for themselves in the world of comedy, with worldwide theatrical success and multiple BBC credits under their belts as they have laughed their ways into the hearts of countless theatre fans. Their first smash hit ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ has been running at the Duchess Theatre in the heart of the West End for seven years to critical acclaim and it is still as fresh, as slick, and as brilliantly funny as the day it first opened.

‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ is a play within a play, featuring perhaps one of Mischief’s greatest invention ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ as they attempt to stage a murder mystery production called ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’. Each cast member plays a member of the drama society, in turn playing a role in the murder mystery, but as the goes wrong in the title of the show suggests things don’t exactly go according to plan. There’s forgotten lines, set malfunctions, accidents and incidents that have Cornley fumbling but have the audience laughing until their sides hurt.

Tom Bulpett plays company director Chris Bean playing inspector Carter, a determined character who wants nothing more than for his play to go right but as things spiral out of control, he grows more and more frustrated, and a number of meltdowns have the audience in stitches. His reaction to some audience heckling in the infamous ledger scene was particularly hilarious as he rants about the behaviour of the audience and laments people laughing at his serious murder mystery. David Kirkbride’s Robert, playing the role of Thomas Colleymoore, is larger than life, revelling in getting a reaction from the audience whilst trying his best to stay on track and keep his Cornley co-stars in line. Kirkbride has a natural flair for comedy and managed to stay completely in character even when things were actually going a little bit wrong for real.

As the hyperactive actor Max, playing the roles of Cecil Haversham, Jack Michael Stacey is a delight. A cheeky grin is enough to get a response from the audience and his energetic movements to match his dialogue are hilarious. It is clear to see that he is loving every moment of playing this fun-loving character and he shares that energy with the thrilled audience. Elena Valentine and Ciara Morris play actress Sandra (playing Florence Colleymoore) and stage manager Annie respectively and bring some real girl power to the production. Valentine’s Sandra dreams of superstardom and delights in hogging the limelight whereas Morris’ Annie perhaps isn’t a natural on stage at first but once she has a taste of it, the competitive side comes out and hilarity entails. Oliver Clayton’s Jonathan, playing Charles Haversham, earned many a laugh throughout with a simple gesture enough to send giggles rippling through the packed auditorium.

The performance that I attended had two understudies (or as mischief calls them Thunderstudies) performing with Colin Burnicle taking on the role of forgetful Dennis, playing the role of Perkins and Damian James playing the role of stage manager Trevor. Burnicle’s Dennis is hilarious and completely lovable, trying his best to get things right whilst Chris and Robert slowly lose their temper with him. James’ Trevor likes nothing more than to mess with the Cornley actors, much to the delight of the audience.

Cornley stagehands Penny and Ron were played by Sally Cheng and Euan Bennett respectively with both impressing, especially in the pre-show as they try their best to help get the show ready. Bennett got a huge laugh for running away from director Chris, declaring that everything was Penny’s fault.

I’ll hold my hands up and be honest here, I am not new to this show. This was my sixth visit and it’s safe to say that it is quickly becoming a bit of an obsession. You may ask how I could see a show of this nature, classic slapstick comedy, and still find it funny, but I can honestly say that I still laugh and laugh every time, even though I know what is coming. That being said, this visit did include a new experience of this show for me because it was the first time that I had sat front row, and that just adds a whole new level to the hilarity. You really feel a part of the action, noticing tiny details and really getting to know the characters more, plus, if you are someone like me who has seen ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ multiple times, being this close did allow me to notice a few little moments when things did actually go wrong. But, of course, this cast of exceptional performers handled it all like pros and made it look like it was all going swimmingly.

Troublesome set pieces caused some difficulty for David Kirkbride and Oliver Clayton whilst some liquid used in a certain scene may have just been a little bit more than usual, leaving Euan Bennett to do some tidying up prior to act 2, in full character of course. Handled with ease and made to look a part of the show.

To wrap it all up, ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ may have been running for 7 years, quite a long time for a west end show, but I imagine that it will continue to run and run. It appeals to all ages, with some jokes flying over the heads of younger audiences whilst they laugh at the classic slapstick. It also breaks the language barrier; with audience members of many nationalities laughing gleefully throughout at the perfectly choreographed chaos. There is something for everyone and there is a feeling of pure delight in seeing just how much the cast are enjoying every moment of it. Mischief Comedy truly showcase their genius here, and it is really no surprise that this production has enjoyed such global success.

You can book tickets to 'The Play That Goes Wrong' here

Images found via Google, not my own


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