The Play That Goes Wrong

Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields

Mischief Theatre

Festival Theatre, Malvern

From 17 July 2017 to 22 July 2017

Review by Colin Davison

It’s a show that brought the house down. Literally. The flats, the set, most of the actors. And yes, it laid the audience low with laughter too.

Every prop becomes somehow a misaprop, every missed cue a cue for chuckles in this knockabout show. Imagine Basil Fawlty in a Buster Keaton version of Agatha Christie.

It had me smiling from beginning to end, and if I missed some of the best (worst) lines, it was because my neighbours were laughing even louder than I was.

As script, actors and the entire stage design collapse, I was helpless to resist the show’s gormless inexorability, like some giant steamroller in a Tom and Jerry film. And with constant mishaps requiring victims to rise from the dead, it gave a whole new meaning to theatrical corpsing.

There are no gags like the old gags—the guy/gal hit by the opening door, the ghost dog on the end of a chain—and the older they are, the funnier they seem in the incomparably incompetent hands of the supposed Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society.

Full marks then to a spirited company who put the ham into ham-dram in murdering your standard country house murder. Who could resist Alastair Kirton’s Max, as he constantly broke out of character to smile in naïve wonder at the punters who had come to see his debut.

Falling props meant characters having to improvise a hilarious form of that Twister party game, but first prize in contortions must go to Meg Mortell as femme fatale Florence. Untimely laid low by that door, her inconvenient and scantily clad corpse had to be hauled out of a window by one leg and one arm.

On that magic day, not long ago, when she confessed, “mummy, I want to be an actress,” I very much doubt it was the image she had in mind.