The Play that Goes Wrong - a must see! By Elleanore Phillips, Townley Grammar School
Attending “The Play that Goes Wrong” at the Duchess Theatre, the audience were sitting still, waiting in anticipation for a sign from the actors. However, we were entertained by the stage crew sprinting up and down the aisles, scouring for a Duran Duran CD set and a dog named Winston who was due to appear in the play after the interval. They went up on stage to finish the fireplace and fix a door that wouldn’t stay closed. It slowly became obvious that this was part of the show as they searched for a missing prop or some tape to hold up the collapsing mantelpiece on the stage, with a member of the audience being called to the stage to help the stage cast fix bits of the set that started to fall apart. The stage crew improvised around the audience member, and at the curtain call, Dave got his recognition for his participation.
The whole audience were grinning watching the scene unravel, and the point of this spectacle is to marvel at organised chaos! The head of the drama society attempted to usher the stage crew and actors through the door backstage, his velvet attire being meticulously ironed, contrasting the flocks of panicked members of the society, who tried his patience. Audience participation and delight begun well before the show started, before the curtain was made ready and the lights dimmed as in reality, the curtains were already up. Of course we were drawn to the crumbling set and Dave having no idea what was going on, despite the crew’s flustered pleas for us to “talk amongst ourselves”.
The Play that Goes Wrong is a pure genius – a comedy about a college production of a murder mystery “The Murder at Haversham Hall”, where everything that could go wrong does go wrong during the performance and the ‘student’ cast need to improvise to keep the show going. I cannot recall when I last laughed so much. For a moment it felt unclear whether any of this should or should not have been happening which only adds to the brilliance of this play. From the start of the play, a butler who could not remember his lines and a main character who was ‘hamming’ it up throughout, caused side splitting amusement throughout and the three character substitution of Sandra when she got knocked out, locked up and thrown through the stage window left the audience left the audience with Laurel and Hardy tears streaming down their faces.
The look of terror on the two stars’ faces as the platform they were sitting on starts to collapse with a two metre drop to the stage was priceless, yet they carried on trying to act out their parts holding the furniture in place as it slid across towards the floor – professionalism in acting out an amateur performance simply shone through.
I spoke to Trevor, head of sound and lighting, (played by Tomisin Ajani), who when asked how he was finding the show, replied, “Yeah, they are just shocking”. Surprisingly, he did not comment whether it was in a good or bad way, but just queried what the programme leaflet wrote about him when I asked how he was finding the lighting and sound.
“Is that what they say in the book about me? Yeah well, I just do the sound. Yeah, just do the sound, just press a button and yeah” he nonchalantly explained whilst I was getting my phone out for a photo. He then asked: “Have you seen this dog? If you see a bulldog named Winston then please let me know!” and thrusted a leaflet into my hand. A brilliant easter egg – the audience participation did not disappoint!
The second act did not become tiring at all, with the ladies sitting next to me (who travelled from the Midlands up to London to see the show) had tears running down their cheeks as we were in such hysterics! Not having been sure what to expect from this play, I feared I would find it over the top, when in fact I found it relatable (who cannot remember a time when something went wrong in their own school production in front of their forgiving parents in the audience) and extremely funny!
This incredibly talented cast playing terrible actors in “The Play that Goes Wrong” are definitely not to be missed at the Duchess Theatre in London!