THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields.
Tkts 0115 9895555
Full information: Mischief Theatre
Runs: 2h 5m: one interval: till 8th July.
Review: Alan Geary: 3rd July 2017.
Enormously funny – but the basic joke starts to wear a bit thin.
The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are staging The Murder at Haversham Manor. Everything that can possibly go haywire does. Before the action the company are trying but failing to put the finishing touches to a wayward country house set, a large room with cardboard rows of books in clearly bogus bookcases, and a picture of a roaring fire in the grate.
Bits keep dropping off the scenery so that by the end of the evening it lies in ruins. A backstage blunder means that instead of coloured water for whisky the cast have to keep knocking back flammable white spirit out of a plastic jerry can. There’s a mishap with a stretcher so a corpse has to try sliding off stage without the audience noticing…
For one agonising stretch the actors land themselves in a loop with the dialogue going round and round in circles for what seems a nightmarish eternity. By the end of it they are all visibly weeping. But the play proceeds.
The CDS are inept in all other respects. The only half-competent actor Chris, who’s also supposed to be directing (Patrick Warner), at one point collapses into an anguished whimper at the mayhem all about him.
What with the characters’ delayed realisations, and the sheer physicality of the whole thing, the real-life cast have to be and are tremendously accomplished. There’s wonderfully OTT twenties acting from Meg Mortell (Sandra as heroine Florence) and Alastair Kirton (Max as her silly ass boyfriend). And Adam Byron (Robert as the murdered man’s chum) and Edward Howells (Dennis as Perkins the butler) are super.
But their material is too unsubtle. For sure, on press night the audience were in fits of laughter throughout the evening – The Play That Goes Wrong is outrageously funny. But the inner play is just too relentlessly badly done.
Perhaps the framing play needs to be more substantial to carry it. We need to know more about the actors and the way they relate to each other; there’s a lot of professional and personal rivalry going on, but that’s insufficient. This is where, for instance Noises Off, a directly comparable caper, has the advantage.
Trevor: Graeme Rooney.
Annie: Katie Bernstein.
Chris: Patrick Warner.
Jonathan: Jason Callender.
Robert: Adam Byron.
Dennis: Edward Howells.
Sandra: Meg Mortell.
Max: Alastair Kirton.
Clire Rice: Natasha Culley.
Arthur Inglebury: James Watterson.
Doris Henderson: Helana Muir.
Jimbo Jones: Matthew Howell.
Director: Mark Bell.
Set Designer: Nigel Hook.
Lighting Designer: Ric Mountjoy.
Sound Designer: Andy Johnson.
Costume Designer: Roberto Surace.
Original Music: Rob Falconer.