After EGX in Birmingham I left for London to spend a few days in the city. Landed Monday evening and left Thursday Morning, leaving me only two days to enjoy myself. I spent both days in Covent Garden aka Theatre Land, a place of music, cafés, theatres and opera. I struggled the first day to find the theatre I was going to because I just couldn’t find it among so many of them.
During my stay I saw two plays, The Woman in Black and The Play that Goes Wrong. A friend recommended the first one to me some time ago, and the other I saw the poster while walking around and had to see it. Today I’ll speak of the first one.
The Play that Goes Wrong is a 1920 murder mystery put on by the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, The Murder at Haversham Manor, one that goes through a series of ‘minor’ glitches, such as the stage falling apart, the main female lead getting knocked out repeatedly and people missing or repeating their queues. You know, minor stuff.
This play was an absolute blast to see. From start to finish I was laughing and couldn’t stop laughing. I ran out of breath many times and still laughed until my sides hurt. It is that funny. Part of the charm and the fun comes from the how the actors embrace the silliness but at the same time make it look as though they are putting on a serious performance. The Cornley Society takes itself seriously and this year’s murder mystery is their greatest hit, mainly because they can finally have an appropriate cast, unlike past successes such as Snow White and the 7 Burly Men and Cat.
The Play that Goes Wrong starts way before the curtain even rises, with members of the cast mingling with the audience. The ‘director’ came up to our seats and shook everyone’s hands, introducing himself and the play. The technical staff urged us to help them look for a missing dog, a Duran Duran collection and even help out with putting the stage together. It’s a night at the theatre and we all had a role to play. Before the curtains rose at the start of the play and then the second half, the Director took his spot at the front and spoke to us about the successes and mishaps of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, mentioning such plays as those I mentioned before. It set the tone before the first scene even started.
What followed was a murder mystery unlike any I have seen in my life, where the Butler forgets his lines, writes them down on his hand and then mispronounces all of them, such as “He was poisoned with Chianeed,” only for another actor to give him a strange look and read his next line “Yes, Cyanide, definitely.” The corpse yelps when they step on his hand and when the stretcher tears and the other actors leave the room still pretending to have the body, he crawls away like a worm, raising his bottom and then pushing himself forward.
The insanity and hilarity never ends in The Play That Goes Wrong and the cast is phenomenal. As I’m writing this I’ve had to take breaks, the memories making me laugh so much. It’s an absolute blast of a play, I’ll say it again, and if you are in London you have to go see it. I’m going to go, in December, to see their new one, Peter Pan Goes Wrong, which promises to be even crazier and will feature this same cast as far as I know.
One thing I have to comment is that when I went to see it, the actor playing the character Annie was the understudy April Hughes and I absolutely loved her. I haven’t see Laura Kirman’s (the regular actress for the part) performance, but April’s was outrageously good, the character having her own story arc in the midst of this disaster, starting out with an innocent charm and by the end showing her fiercer (and rather violent) side. It was a delight to see April Hughes pull it off so successfully. But as I’ve said, the cast, all of it—from Chris Leask’s stagehand Trevor to Bryony Corrigan’s Sandra and James Marlowe’s Max—is phenomenal.
After leaving the theatre in tears of laughter, I told my British friends they had to go see it, and now I tell you to do the same. It is an absolute joy of a play and a total blast! And it’s made me a fan of Mischief Theatre, the company behind these hilarious plays!