cast and set

It'll be all right on the night . . .  (which night is unspecified)

The Play That Goes Wrong

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


Having seen the televised version of a play that goes wrong (Peter Pan Goes Wrong) a few Christmases ago, it was with an air of trepidation that I ventured to Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre to watch it live.

Would it be as good, once you know the gag? Would it be as enjoyable from a distance, without the superior vantage point a TV screen brings? 

In a word yes. In fact, it’s better. There’s something lovely about hearing the rest of the audience laugh with you – a shared moment of hilarity in a not so hilarious world.

Not to sound like an old lady but The Play That Goes Wrong is an absolute wheeze from start to finish. My accompanying eldest son perhaps put it best with his verdict – ‘there’s a few laugh your head off moments but apart from that it will make you constantly laugh and smile all the way through’.  


A little window dressing perhaps?

With a summary as succinct and as spot on as that, I do rather wonder whether he should be doing this review instead.

As he rightly says, pretty much every joke lands and there is always something to chuckle at with plenty of guffaws thrown in for good measure. As an audience member, the worry is soon not whether the production will be funny but more whether your laughs will make you miss the next joke.

Directed by Jean Hardie, The Play That Goes Wrong follows the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, presenting their ambitious production of The Murder at Haversham Manor.

It was perhaps a fitting coincidence that the start time was delayed by technical difficulties but it was no matter for as soon as we started filing into the theatre it became apparent that this was something different, as members of the cast starting asking if we’d seen a small French bulldog named Winston or whether we’d seen a Duran Duran CD.  

Who needs a script anyway?

It heralded the starting point of wonderfully choreographed chaos with an old school charm bursting with lashings of verbal and physical gags.

 The ensemble cast is truly superb with every one of them adding to the silliness and fun with a skill that is deftly camouflaged. Make no mistake, it takes real talent to make something this bad, this entertaining.

The only problem as a reviewer is that it’s incredibly difficult to actually explain why it’s so darned enjoyable.

Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields – themselves ensemble members of Mischief Theatre – The Play That Goes Wrong just feels like something created by friends. There is a love and warmth to every pratfall and carefully crafted clanger. Nowhere is this bond more evident than in the genuinely entertaining programme – which pulls out the stops to add backstory to the Cornley Crew, whilst still giving credit to the professionals behind them.

They have created a comedy which can appeal to young and old – taking you back to Keaton, Lloyd, Chaplin and Mr Bean with no mission except to make people laugh, and laugh they did.  

set piece

A play full of set pieces or more set in pieces . . .

In fact people laughed so much that soon you started recognising laughs in the audience, like old friends popping round for a cuppa and a chat.

You feel like the energy of the piece is reminiscent of when the play first started above a pub in North London in 2012.

As a result of there being no ‘stars’ on the cast, it gives everyone space to be a star – I honestly can’t pick a favourite as they were all so good. Honourable mention is also deserved for the set – designed by Nigel Hook, which feels like the last member of the cast, such is its integral role in the unfolding saga.  

I honestly think this is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen and if you’d like some laughter in your life then I urge you to see it while you can. If you’ve seen it before then I suspect you’ll definitely go and see it again – I know I will.

Theo Clarke


As if the quality of the play itself wasn’t enough, the production is also fantastic value with tickets starting at just £13. There is also an audio described and signed performance. Buy your tickets here: HERE 

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