THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Full information: Mischief Theatre
Runs: 2h 30m: one interval: till 29th March.
Review: Alan Geary: 24th March 2014.
Enormously funny – but over-done.
This is a slapstick semi-farce about a bungled attempt by the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society to stage a thriller, The Murder at Haversham Manor – obvious comparisons to be made therefore with Noises Off et al. And it’s undeniably funny.
Before the play proper starts a motley handful of backstage crew augmented with an actor or two are desperately trying to put the finishing touches to a failing 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.
Everything that can possibly go wrong does. Bits keep dropping of the set so that by the end of the evening it collapses into ruination. A backstage blunder means that instead of coloured water for whisky the cast have to make do with white spirit out of a plastic jerry can. There’s a mishap with a stretcher so that the corpse of the first murder victim has to try sliding off stage without the audience noticing – and so on and so forth. For one stretch the actors land themselves in an agonising loop and the dialogue goes round and round in circles for what seems a hellish eternity.
The Cornley Drama Society are inept in all other respects. Inspector Carter (Henry Shields) is the only half-competent one. Eventually he starts to twitch with anguish at what’s going on all round him, and even emits a whimper.
The real-life cast work miracles, for instance, with the delayed realisations and the efforts to up-stage one another. There’s wonderfully OTT twenties acting from Charlie Russell, as the heroine Florence, Dave Hearn, as her histrionic boyfriend in a cricket pullover, and Jonathan Sayer, as Perkins the butler. And everyone declaims the lines – loudly.
But the material confronting them is overly unsubtle. Despite the mirth it generates – the audience were in fits of laughter throughout the show – the inner play is simply too unremitting in its awfulness for comfort. The framing play needed to be more substantial to carry it.
Chris: Henry Shields.
Jonathan: Gregg Tannahill.
Robert: Henry Lewis.
Dennis: Jonathan Sayer.
Sandra: Charlie Russell.
Brad Morris: Adrian Lloyd-James.
Max: Dave Hearn.
Annie: Lotti Maddox.
Trevor: Rob Falconer.
Director: Mark Bell.
Set Designer: Nigel Hook.
Lighting Designer: Ric Mountjoy.