This show is another fine example of a ‘rags to riches’ story in Theatreland (not dissimilar to my favourite, ‘Sunny Afternoon’), having started life in London’s Fringe at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington, and now residing in the West End’s Duchess Theatre near Covent Garden. And it looks to be staying for some time to come! The theatre itself is very cosy, providing a perfect environment for the play. The seats are a little hard (& quite low down), reminiscent of old cinema seats, but with a running time of just over two hours – including an interval – this doesn’t end up being a huge issue. The intimacy of the space allows for real interaction between cast & audience; initially in the form of ‘stage hands’ Annie & Trevor, trying to locate a dog & a Duran Duran CD, as well as making sure that audience members weren’t actually expecting to see a different (but very local) West End show..
Part of the beauty of the production is in the constant surprise at everything that ‘goes wrong’, so I won’t give too much away – I just want to echo my fellow bloggers’ comments about the set design. Nigel Hook really should be getting all the awards for making a set that not only looks good, but is also safe enough for the cast to use eight shows a week! And what about the cast? Between them they portray the spectrum of am dram actors; from needing help with the words (Jonathan Sayer as Dennis Tyde as Perkins) and enjoying the audience’s approval too much (Dave Hearn as Max Bennett as Cecil Haversham & Arthur), to sticking rigidly to the script (Henry Shields as Chris Bean as Inspector Carter) and woeful attempts at improvisation (Henry Lewis as Robert Grove as Thomas Colleymore). There is not a weak link between them! I honestly don’t know how they can do this day after day with straight faces… And avoiding injury! It really is testament to their commitment & passion for the show – and their company, ‘Mischief Theatre’. This is a production borne out of love, and that really comes across.
The show is a classic comedy; full of slapstick and topped up with irony. Monty Python’s natural heir.
Let’s put it this way: I was laughing so much in the first act I almost passed out because I obviously wasn’t breathing properly! I even ended up with a sore throat… True, it’s not a story that you have to follow, so that does allow you to just sit back & enjoy things a bit more than other shows – but that doesn’t mean it’s mindless, or solely physical comedy. Some of the biggest laughs of the night came from Perkins’ mispronunciations, as well as irony & slapstick working together in tandem. It’s not just about people getting whacked in the head, is what I’m trying to say!
‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ is perfect if you need a laugh and is truly unique on the West End. I fully intend on seeing it again, as well as further Mischief Theatre productions (such as ‘Lights! Camera! Improvise!’). I hope I’ve done enough to persuade you to go too!
London Theatres: http://duchess.londontheatres.co.uk/
Other reviews from the same night (updated 5 July 2015):