Two hours of solid laughter is guaranteed when you see The Play That Goes Wrong at the Roslyn Packer Theatre. As the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Theatre Society attempts to stage The Murder at Haversham Manor, this whodunit immediately goes awry — and the laughter increases with each mishap. It’s the funniest way you’ll spend an evening at the theatre.
But don’t just take my word for it. Debuting in London, The Play That Goes Wrong is a winner of ‘Best New Comedy’ at the U.K.’s Olivier Awards and is in its third year of performances in the West End in London. Now it’s made its way to Australia under the direction of Sean Turner, drawing rave reviews in Melbourne before heading Sydney-side.
With physical comedy galore, and sharp-witted reparté, it’s a non-stop entertainment that begins before the curtain is even drawn. Confused stagehands rush about, trying (and failing) to affix a mantlepiece to the wall. They even enlist a hapless audience member to help. Shortly thereafter, the audience is introduced to the play-within-a-play by its director — and the play immediately begins to go awry.
The plot revolves around a murder in a mansion. Stock characters abound: butler, fiancée, gardener. And the corpse of the murdered Charles, of course (played by Darcy Brown). A corpse that gets its fingers stepped on, and eventually crawls off stage. To say the audience roared with laughter during this scene is an understatement.
The other characters try to find out whodunit: Charles’ fiancée Sandra (Brook Satchwell), her brother Robert (Luke Joslin), and Charles’ brother Cecil (James Marlowe, one of the original West End actors). They’re both helped and hindered by the inept butler Perkins (George Kemp) and Inspector Carter, played by the the Theatre Society’s director (actor Nick Simpson-Deeks). If all this sounds complicated, it’s not. Rather, it’s a joyous two hours’ worth of merriment as the play slowly unravels.
Lines are forgotten — or remembered at the wrong time, multiple times. Props are picked up when they shouldn’t be. Duran Duran’s biggest fan, aka the sound operator (Adam Dunn) forgets his cues. And bits and pieces of the set keep coming apart. All the way through, the actors of the Polytechnic Theatre Society gamely soldier on.
The stellar set from Nigel Hook involves multiple doors — one of which of course won’t stay shut — and an upper level that the actors utilise for some physical comedy par excellence. The pratfalls just grow funnier as the play continues.
The Play That Goes Wrong shows that sometimes, two (or in this case, a hundred and two) wrongs can make a right. Spend an evening laughing until your face hurts.
Co-founder of The Plus Ones, Theresa can’t get over how funny this play is.