Monday, 27 February 2017
The Play That Goes Wrong, Feb 27, 2017 ****
Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, Mischief Theatre Company
Produced by Lunchbox Theatre Productions, Kenny Wax Ltd, Stage Presence, David Atkins Enterprises and ABA
Comedy Theatre, until March 27, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Monday Feb 27, 2016 & later in print. KH
L-R Nick Simpson-Deeks, George Kemp, Luke Joslin, James Marlowe
(Couch) Darcy Browne, Brooke Satchwell
An old theatre adage advises actors to ‘remember your lines and don’t fall over the furniture’, but it forgets to warn that the furniture might fall on you.
In this raucously slapstick, UK comedy, The Play That Goes Wrong, anything that can go wrong does go wrong (Murphy’s Law), including a collapsing set, missed cues, forgotten lines, missing props and truly awful, hammy acting.
In the play-within-the-play, the pitifully under-staffed and painfully untalented amateur theatre company, Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, stages The Murder at Haversham Manor, a 1920s murder mystery in the style of The Mousetrap, the madly successful, long-running West End play by Agatha Christie.
The play-outside-the-play is often achingly funny, chaotic and silly and Mark Bell’s direction draws on the essential dynamics of physical comedy that hark back to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and the techniques of the Le Coq clown school in Paris.
The story is incidental to the sheer idiocy and chaos of the incompetent, am-dram actors, but suffice to say that there’s a dead body in the drawing room, a bunch of upper-class twits, their servants and a police inspector (Nick Simpson-Deeks), who take two hours to figure out who did or didn’t kill the murder victim.
The star of the production is Nigel Hook’s set design that seems possessed of an evil theatre spirit that gives the set a demonic life of its own even before the play-within-the-play begins.
Simpson-Deeks captures the escalating desperation of Chris Bean, the ambitious but beleaguered director / producer (and everything else) of the murder mystery who struggles to keep his production on track while he is also on stage playing the pernickety Inspector Carter.
The ‘actors’ stand and deliver their rote-learned lines directly to the audience, rarely looking at each other or communicating, and relentlessly persevering despite a list of disasters that includes cast members being knocked unconscious – repeatedly.
Luke Joslin is suitably pompous as Robert, the actor who, in turn, plays the snobbish Thomas Collymore, and Joslin’s comic business as he attempts to answer a phone while sliding down a collapsing platform is a show highlight.
James Marlow is a riot as the applause-seeking Max who plays Cecil Haversham with histrionic mincing, prancing, outrageous over-acting and pandering to the audience.
One wild scene is the mounting violence of the slapstick fight between Annie, the self-effacing Stage Manager (Tammy Weller), and the egotistical Sandra (Brooke Satchwell), who plays Florence Collymore with absurdly flamboyant, balletic gestures.
Adam Dunn provides plenty of laughs as Trevor, the incompetent technician who can’t get a lighting or sound cue right and is more interested in texting his pals or finding out who nicked his Duran Duran CDs.
Darcy Brown provides plenty of sight gags as the putative dead body that must take up his bed and walk off stage, while George Kemp is nerdy and supremely stupid as Dennis who plays Perkins, the butler.
The Play That Goes Wrong is the latest in the line of British farces about am-dram that includes The Real Inspector Hound (Tom Stoppard) and Noises Off (Michael Frayn).
The broad farce and physical comedy of this show may leave you with a sore jaw from laughing out loud – unless your tastes in comedy are more cerebral and subtle.
Oh, and this reviewer strongly denies accepting – or, at least, spending – the $5 ‘bribe’ that the ‘director’ unobtrusively slipped into her hand before the show. No, really! It had ‘BRIBE’ scrawled on it in texta, anyway!
By Kate Herbert
Director- Mark Bell
Australian cast director -Sean Turner
Set - Nigel Hook
Costume -Roberto Surace
Lighting -Ric Mountjoy
Adam Dunn Tech Trevor
Nick Simpson-Deeks Chris director inspector
Darcy Brown – Jonathan Charles Haversham dead
Robert -Luke Joslin Thomas Collymore (brother)
George Kemp - Dennis Perkins butler
Brooke Satchwell - Sandra – Florence Collymore
James Marlow – Max – Cecil Haversham and Arthur
Tammy Weller – Annie – Stage manager
Francine Cain - Maggie understudy
Jordan Prosser –William understudy
Matthew Whitty - Lincoln understudy