The Play That Goes Wrong

Birmingham Hippodrome


If laughter really is the best medicine then this magnificently murdered murder mystery could cure anything – saving the NHS a fortune in the process.

From the opening moments as the audience enter with the stage crew attempting to repair the set, dragging up some poor unfortunate to help, to the closing mayhem as pretty much everything gives up the fight, it is wall to wobbly wall laughs.

Yet, like all great comedy, it hasn’t strayed too far from the truth; anyone who has reviewed theatre for any length of time - my first was half a century ago – will recognise many of the mishaps, it’s just they are not usually as catastrophic, and they certainly don’t all happen in the same production . . . until now!

Thus we have doors that jam shut, or won’t close, fittings and pictures that fall off walls, props that are missing, or are not where they are supposed to be, wrong sound cues, repeated lines, and scripts that plough on regardless of what is actually happening.

The result is magnificent chaos with anything that can go wrong doing just that, and anything that surely can’t go wrong joining in.

To add to the confusion for the audience, the cast play members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society who in turn play characters in The Murder at Haversham Manor.

Thus Jake Curran plays Chris Bean, the play’s director, and chairman of the society, who in turn plays Inspector Carter . . . let’s just say Jake is very funny with some wonderful facial expression, some funny front of house speeches and a glorious meltdown when a missing ledger is, well, missing.

We open on the eve of a party to celebrate the engagement of Charles Haversham and Florence Collymore at Haversham Manor which introduces us to a household of characters Agatha Christie would be proud of.

Missing out the polytechnic middleman, Kazeem Tosin Amore plays Thomas Colleymore, in his tweed plus fours, the brother of Elena Valentine’s Florence, with ham acting seemingly a family trait. And any murder mystery needs a victim, so enter Steven Rostance as the quite lively corpse of Charles, engaged and dead on the same night and still proving you can’t keep a good man down as he has to crawl off stage, and then reappears regularly on the wrong cue.

His brother Cecil, is played beautifully by Bobby Hirston who must have read somewhere that acting involves expressive gestures, so gives the impression of a windmill in a hurricane much of the time, smiling and playing to the audience for the rest. He also pops up as the gardener with much the same demeanour, accompanied by his missing dog Winston, the actual dog having vanished somewhere in the theatre.

Benjamin McMahon is the faithful old retainer Perkins who has difficult words written on hands, cuffs and sleeves and still mispronounces them hilariously. Discovering that Charles has been poisoned with Kyanidy is still a favourite of mine even after seeing the play several times – just think about it. Some things just tickle you for ever more.

Then there is the stage manager Annie, played by Catherine Dryden, who is roped in as Florence when the real Florence suffers an unfortunate mishap. Also playing Florence when the Florence standing in for Florence suffers a similar mishap is Trevor, the techie on lights and sound, played by Gabriel Paul, who is concerned about his missing Duran Duran CD and is, should we say, a little cavalier with cues.

He wisely goes back to his Duran Duran shrine of a technical box once both Florences return to battle it out, so with a cat fight, exploding lifts, collapsing floors and toppling sets this is not quite as aficionados of the Christie style country house murder mysteries might have expected it – but what the heck, this is pure, unadulterated, silly, daft, wonderful, glorious fun.

The timing is just brilliant and the acting superb – it is remarkably difficult to act badly that well if you see what I mean – while Nigel Hook’s set is a masterpiece in mayhem and some clever structural engineering.

The stage crew led by stage manager and deputy, Sue Volans and Julian Johnson, also deserve credit with such a lot going on back stage to create the perfectly timed havoc out front with sound and lights adding to the general chaos with some technical brilliance.

I first saw this in 2014 when it was a comedy revelation and this latest version has had a few tweaks here and there while under director Mark Bell it has become a little slicker, but it hasn’t lost any of its wonderful theatrical daftness. It is still as funny as ever - genuine, 24 carat comedy gold. The best definition of hilarious you will find. To 31-03-18

Roger Clarke


Mischief Theatre and the original cast and creators of The Play That Goes Wrong will be back at the Hippodrome in The Patrick Centre, 26 June -1 July, returning to their improve roots with Mischief Movie Night creating a new movie, live on stage each night with the audience suggesting genre, location and title.

0844 338 5000 www.Birminghamhippodrome.com

The play that goes wrong will be going wrong again at Derby Theatre next week (3-7 April)

 01332 255 800 www.derbytheatre.co.uk 

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