The Play That Goes Wrong

The title of The Play That Goes Wrong is a knowing wink to the audience from a company which gets everything right. Whodunnit? Who cares when it is this funny?

Charles Haversham has been found dead at his own engagement party. His estate is completely cut off by a terrible snow storm and a lone inspector must crack the case before the murderer can kill again… The plot should sound very familiar and it serves as the cliché-ridden plot for the show-within-a-show The Murder at Haversham Manor.

What we are actually watching is a hysterical send-up of the whodunnit genre, as performed by am-dram groups all over the country. With no budget, and less of a clue, a group of well-intentioned volunteers set off to make great theatre. It takes a lot of work to have things go wrong as seamlessly as they do in The Play.

This is for everyone who has had a hand in putting on a play and all the tragedies that come with it. I don’t mean a heart-breaking soliloquy, but that soul-crushing moment when you are utterly alone on stage and things have gone terribly wrong. This phrase gets thrown around but I must tell you that I laughed so hard I cried during one of these excruciating moments.

They dandy of a director, played by Henry Shields, has been keeping his cool when lesser men would have pulled their hair out, but when a crucial prop is missing he snaps. In a fit of rage reminiscent of a young John Cleese, Shields screams out his last line over and over again in the hope that the prop will magically materialise on stage. The moment is played flawlessly.

The Play has the motto “the show must go on” at its heart and soldiers on despite every calamity possible. The fictional Cornley Polytechnic Society deserves a medal for bravery in the line of duty. The fictional group are played by the really very talented Mischief Theatre. I had the pleasure of seeing them at the Edinburgh Fringe and jumped at the chance to see them again. They have only gotten better.

I am looking for somewhere to criticise this show but they have not made it easy for me. It ran over by around 10 minutes and the leg room was a bit stingy. That is as cruel as I can be. Joking aside, this show is wonderful, and extra enjoyable for those who have made theatre. I fear some of the jokes may be lost on those for don’t go to theatre too often but there is plenty more for them to enjoy.

My advice is to go and see it immediately. You never know who could be killed next! Seriously, this show is incredibly physical and it is only a matter of time before one of the cast does themselves an injury.

The Play That Goes Wrong is playing at Trafalgar Studios until 18 May. For more information and tickets, see ATG’s Trafalgar Studios website. Photography by Federica Frezza and Alisha Hahmed.