The Play That Goes Wrong at the Duchess
The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society have, due to a clerical error, taken over the Duchess Theatre for their production of “Murder at Haversham Manor”. Unfortunately for them, almost everything that possibly could go wrong, goes wrong, in this delightful farce by Mischief Theatre.
Each member of the cast plays an actor who is playing a character in “Haversham Manor”. They each do a splendid job of managing to show the personalities of both the character and the actor simultaneously, from the stage manager with stage fright to the model who breaks character to smile at the audience whenever he’s appreciated. Each of them is a delight to watch as their own little tragedy unfolds.
The show gets giggles even before it begins, with an increasingly obvious preamble that it’s already going wrong, but once the show gets going, there is no hope – for anyone. The actors hopelessly blunder around the stage, and every time they try to put something right, three more things seem to go wrong. This leaves the audience hopelessly rocking in their seats with relentless laughter.
It’s not all forgotten cues and technical issues. The show crescendos from mispronounced words and forgotten props through to full-flung acrobatics and slapstick fight scenes, without missing a beat. The script is wonderfully paced – despite it being one of the most joke-dense shows out there, it never feels too much. It also shows incredible wit with its unbelievably smooth joke setups.
The set itself becomes a character, one that seems hell-bent on killing the actors. The loudest laughs of the evening are brought on by a feat of utter collapse. Set designer Nigel Hook shows inspired moments of calamity that are tantamount to magic tricks.
Miraculously, “Murder at Haversham Manor” holds together and we make it to the end. The final sequence is a pinnacle of organised chaos that has to be witnessed to be believed.
The Play That Goes Wrong is at Duchess Theatre until 5th September 2015, for further information or to book visit here.