escort diary® of Lucy Landau

THEATRE REVIEW: "The Play That Goes Wrong"

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Sometimes clients give me presents such as books, or we go and see shows or movies together. I have decided to use my Scarlet Blue diary to write reviews. Let's get this started!

“The Play That Goes Wrong” by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions (Australian tour of the Mischief Theatre production)
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide

Stage crew dart around the lobby having hissed conversations with the Her Majesty’s ushers. A stage manager pulls a bloke out of the audience to hold up part of the set while she looks for a hammer. The director comes out to thank the audience for coming, apologises to the 300 people impacted by a ticketing mix-up who thought they were going to see “Matilda”, and hopes we enjoy the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s  production of “Murder at Haversham Manor” as much as we did their previous shows such as “James and the Peach”, “The Lion and the Wardrobe” and their musical which went ahead with a smaller cast than hoped for, “Cat”.

Then “Murder at Haversham Manor” starts. And yes, it all goes very, very wrong.

“The Play That Goes Wrong” made me laugh so hard my stomach started to hurt, as sympathetic horror at watching the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society lurch their way through what must be every theatre company’s worst nightmare come to life,  collided with admiration for the talent, athleticism and comic timing of the real-life actors playing the people playing the roles. This is an ensemble show in every sense of the word and it’s hard for me to pick out favourite performers but they would have to include George Kemp as Dennis who reads the hard-to-remember words off the palm of his hand, Luke Joslin who rendered the audience almost silent with schadenfreude-tinged anticipation as his character Robert tried to answer a plot-important phone call while the set collapsed around and under him, and Tammy Weller as the aforementioned stage manager, Annie, who is shoved onstage, prompt book in hand, when lead actress Sandra receives a door to the face and her unconscious body has to be bundled out of an upstage window by the crew while two actors try to have an exposition-heavy dialogue exchange downstage. (Props also to Brooke Satchwell as Sandra who, prior to the door to face incident, hysterically shimmies and vamps her way around the stage.)

During the early scenes of the show I sometimes struggled to understand what the actors were saying, but to be fair this could have been (a) because they were being drowned out by the audience laughing) and (b) a directorial choice to reflect the way that amateur actors could rush their lines and not project sufficiently. And yes, you do have to suspend your belief sufficiently to go along with the idea that a performance of a play could go so terribly disastrously wrong without the curtain being brought down and the audience asked to leave the theatre. Perhaps, as my companion suggested, the families of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society were being held hostage backstage by terrorists demanding “Murder at Haversham Manor” continue until the end on pain of death, and we were watching a slapstick comedy that was also a thriller.

The cast were strongly supported by an amazing set and production design (if you find yourself thinking “this set is way too good for an amateur play, surely” then just wait and all shall be revealed), and lighting and sound cues were timed with perfection, which means everything happened exactly the moment it should not have.

“The Play That Goes Wrong” was only in Adelaide for a week (boo!!), and the tour continues in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth from now through to early June. I cannot stress hard enough how funny and enjoyable this show is, and how you do not need to be a theatre buff to appreciate it. If you like physical comedy and cringe comedy you will like this play.

TL;DR: The show goes on, in defiance of common sense and violation of every occupational health & safety regulation imaginable. Hilarity ensues. Fingers crossed Mischief Theatre bring some of their other shows to Australia too!

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