The Play That Goes Wrong

Posted On 29 Aug 2018 at 11:43 am

The Play That Goes Wrong. Theatre Royal Brighton, 28 August 2018

The touring Mischief Theatre production of the West End hit opened to riotous approval in Brighton last night. The frenetic production, directed by Mark Bell – whose background in Lecoq-trained bouffon-ery shone through to great effect – sees the ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ attempting to put on a performance of Murder At Haversham Manor, with hilarious consequences. This really was a genuinely funny evening – with split-second physical slapstick, machine-gun quick exchanges, a set that fell apart so aptly that my teenager asked repeatedly “was THAT meant to happen??”, and best of all, sharp character observation.

In all the high-energy chaos, and with a flawless understudy performance by Laura White as Sandra (playing glamorous love-interest Florence Colleymore), the ensemble did not drop the ball once. More than that, there were wonderful moments of subtle clowning, allowing the characters of the actors playing the characters to shine through. Gabriel Paul as Duran Duran-loving techie Trevor was a masterclass in comic timing, holding the spotlight while appearing to do nothing more than peel a satsuma and forget to cue the music; and Bobby Hirston as Max, playing Cecil Haversham, brother to the murder victim and supposed lover of Florence (despite clearly finding the idea of physical contact with the female gender a challenge), was a revelation – turning his Cheshire-cat grin on the audience at every opportunity, he managed to be bumbling, charming and lascivious all at once – a tricky combination to pull off.

Yes, there were moments of overacting even beyond the overacting called for by the concept, and sometimes the pace of action and speech was so great I found myself unable to sustain the attention required to take it all in (especially given the poor view from the seats we had in the Gods, which meant we had to crane to see). Nonetheless, this was without a doubt one of the silliest, funniest evenings of performance – theatre or otherwise – I’ve sat through, and I needed it. Go, and laugh yourself happy.

28 August – 1 September
Theatre Royal, New Road, Brighton

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