'You're seeing it again?!' - The Joy of being a repeat attender of 'The Play That Goes Wrong'
Most people have a favourite movie, favourite tv show, something to watch that they never tire of, and most theatre fans have their favourite show that just keeps tempting them back over and over again. And with whatever it is that you watch repeatedly, be a tv show, a film or a theatrical production, there always seems to be the same sort of questions asked. ‘How can you watch it over and over without getting bored?’, ‘How can you still find it funny or entertaining when you know exactly what is coming?’ and the classic ‘You’re seeing it again?!’.
When it comes to my favourite play, Mischief Theatre’s ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’, I’ve been asked these questions in some way or form multiple times, and I always respond in a similar way. ‘I could never get bored of it’, ‘It’s always funny, because even though it’s the same play, it’s always different’ and ‘of course, I’m seeing it again, I love it’.
Since I first saw the touring production in 2017, I have seen this slapstick comedy masterpiece 13 times, and I already have another trip booked for next month, but what is it about the show that keeps me coming back.
To really love a show, you have to really love the characters, really feel for them, relate to them, and with Play, I completely adore the characters and even though I know that things aren’t going to go well for them, I still find myself willing them on to succeed.
With its play inside a play format, Play introduces us to Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, a gang of good intentioned but incredibly unlucky and accident-prone actors and stage crew who try their hardest to stage the very serious murder mystery ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’, but of course, as the name of the show suggest, things don’t exactly go according to plan. Director Chris Bean tries to hold it all together and keep his anger at his fellow actor’s mistakes under control, as self-proclaimed lead actor Robert makes everything big and loud, Sandra makes the most of being in the spotlight, Dennis fumbles over long words and stage directions, Jonathan tries to master exits and entrances and Max gets over excited. All whilst stage manager Annie, the stagehand team and lighting and sound manager Trevor just try to get through the show in one piece.
All of these characters are incredibly well developed and written, for they all have their flaws alongside their very distinct personalities, making them all the more believable and relatable and I think that audience members can see a little bit of themselves in at least some of the characters. Like Chris, we can all get frustrated when people around us aren’t working to the plan. Like Robert, we have a drive to keep going no matter what is going wrong. Like Sandra, sometimes we want to have that moment in the spotlight, and sometimes don’t want to share that glory. Like Dennis, we can be forgetful. Like Jonathan, we can make mistakes and desperately try to cover them up. Like Annie, we can be nervous about doing something and then discover that we love it and like Trevor, we can get dragged along for the ride and thrown into completely unexpected situations. And the stagehands, well, I think we can all relate to having agreed to do something then finding ourselves wondering what on earth we signed up for.
Having seen the show 13 times, I feel that I have got to know these characters very well, but that doesn’t mean that I know exactly what they are going to do in every show. Of course, it’s scripted, the same things happen, I know what to expect, but something that is so wonderful about how the production is put together is the way in which each performer is given that little bit of freedom with the character. Each performer is allowed to make the character their own, add their own little twist to things in moments of improvisation or interaction with different characters. This, along with the elements of audience interaction during in the show, makes every single performance completely unique.
I may have seen the show a lot and may have been to Haversham Manor multiple times during a cast’s run, but I have never seen the exact same cast twice, which I love. I have always been someone who loves to support an understudy, and one of the many things that makes Mischief so wonderful is the love and respect they have for their understudies, or as they call them Thunderstudies. They are celebrated and thanked, and that is just so nice to see. At least once, I have seen a thunderstudy on for every role, allowing me to see more people perform their own takes on the characters. I’ve been very lucky, especially recently when I saw the touring production 4 times in 10 days and got to see 3 different people perform as Robert, including seeing a debut.
You may ask how I still find it funny even though I know exactly what is going to happen in terms of things going wrong and to be honest, I can’t really explain it, but every time I still find it hysterically funny and again, I think that is a sign of great writing and wonderful performance. The stunts always have a shock element and the moments of improvisation always catch me off guard and seeing how different audiences react to it always adds to the enjoyment. Long story short, it is always funny, and I always laugh myself silly and cheer at the curtain call.
By now, I know the show very well, I can spot when things do actually go wrong and are so brilliantly dealt with and on a couple of occasions have been asked by fellow audience members if I am part of the show when I joined in with the iconic ledger scene or Chris’ opening speech. I wish I was part of the show, but I’ll settle with having the opportunity to join in where it is appropriate to do so.
‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ means a lot to me, and it is a show that I will always jump at the chance to see as often as possible. And least when I can’t get to the theatre to see it, I have The Goes Wrong Show to watch from the comfort of my home. It may not be ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’ but it’s still Cornley, still the characters that I completely and utterly adore.
Now that it is safe to do so again, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many cast members, including all of the original cast when they returned to the show for a short run in Manchester and all of the current touring cast along with some of the current London cast. I’ve been incredibly lucky, and I am so thankful for them all for taking the time to talk to me at stage door. I just love the show so much and I am always happy to support.
And to finish by stating the obvious, yes, I’m a Mischief Theatre ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ addict, but that’s not a problem that I want to solve any time soon. Roll on my next visit to Haversham Manor!