The Play that Goes Wrong, currently touring Australia, has hit Sydney with a bang.
Meta-theatre in its truest form, the show begins with an introduction by the director of a fictitious amateur theatre company, the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, that has been plagued with a string of theatrical failures due to insufficient budget and inconsistent cast sizes causing for some alterations to made for Checkov’s Two Sisters and a recent production of Cat. Determined to overcome their past failings, the company proudly introduces their latest production, a 1920s whodunit, The Murder at Haversham Manor.
As the title so obviously points out, this fictitious play is destined for failure – and fail it does. The set deconstructs itself, the amateur actors make mistake after mistake and the stage manager clearly has no concept of what is going on.
And throughout, the audience roars with laughter!
Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of slapstick comedy. I definitely chuckled throughout a lot of this show, and even participated in a few hearty laughs but the slapstick fans in the room are the show’s prime target market and boy did they laugh! In fact, their laughter was almost infectious and they had the rest of the audience laughing with them, sometimes more than with the show.
The actors in this show are really athletes – they throw their bodies into the physical of the piece with total conviction and so, when they crash, fall, slide, etc, you feel their pain as an audience member. As a whole, the cast is to be commended for their work – the show is clearly demanding.
For me, slapstick humour lies in the disaster that happens when the characters clearly don’t expect it. For this to be really successful, ‘playing it straight’ is crucial. As the directors decided that some characters should be so outlandish throughout, particularly Florence (Brooke Satchwell) who dances throughout every line and somewhat over-plays the damsel in distress, the audience seemed to lose sympathy for the character. Everything going wrong felt like caricatures.
Nigel Hook’s set is a character in itself and it plays to perfection. Something goes wrong with everything and whilst the overacting may reduce some of the humour associated with the falls and breakages, the artistry of Hook’s design and its execution must be complimented.
As is often the case, some of the funniest moments come from the smallest things and I feel that with a few less things written into the script to go wrong, the actors would have had the opportunity to actually let things go wrong more often.
I’m definitely glad that I saw this production and for those looking for a fun night of entertainment, this could definitely be for you. Go ready to laugh and embrace the silliness – you’ll have a much better time if you do.
The Play that Goes Wrong plays at the Roslyn Packer Theatre until April 25th before continuing it’s Australian tour.