Laughter is definitely the best medicine. I came away from seeing this exhausted from laughing but so uplifted my mood carried over to the next day.
Do you remember Peter Pan Goes Wrong on the TV over Christmas? It was one of the few things worth watching.
Devised by Mischief Theatre and toured in 2014 it was exactly as it suggests – a pantomime that goes horribly and hilariously wrong. I loved it!
So when I saw Mischief were touring The Play That Goes Wrong and appearing at the Northcott in Exeter, I hit the keyboard and bought a ticket.
The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s The Murder at Haversham Manor is a 1920’s murder mystery. All the usual ingredients are there – a group of people stranded in a snow storm in a country house, a murder, a torrid love affair … I’d seen The Mousetrap not all that long ago and recognised the cliches.
I won’t go into details because it will spoil the jokes but, suffice to say, the members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society aren’t very good at acting or scenery construction. In fact, everything that could go wrong, does. And, to quote yet another cliche, with hilarious consequences. For the audience that is. One of the highlights is seeing Inspector Carter’s (played by Chris Bean played by Patrick Warner, if you see what I mean) teeth-gnashing desperation at the chaos unfolding around him. He’s also the director of The Murder at Haversham Manor and desperately wants everything to go smoothly. At one point there is some wonderful interplay with the audience as he explains, with Basil Fawlty-like angst, that we really should be taking it all far more seriously.
The ‘fourth wall’ was broken numerous times – it was a full house for the matinee with a very responsive audience, resulting in some quick-thinking improvisation from those on stage. And yes, you’ve guessed it, with hilarious consequences.
The production can be enjoyed on all sorts of levels. You can enjoy the slapstick and farce. You can admire the skill involved in getting it right so that it goes wrong (again, if you see what I mean). You can love, as I did, the whole play within a play theme.
This was continued in the programme, which is well worth a read for giggle or two. It even includes an ad for the Cornley Sunam Balti House. If you’ve bought as many theatre programmes as I have, you’ll get the reference.
My thanks to Mischief Theatre for a brilliantly executed afternoon of fun. I’m very glad I didn’t wear mascara, it would have ended up all down my face.
The Play That Goes Wrong is touring across the UK this summer. Go see it.
More details here:
and on Twitter @mischiefcomedy or @playgoeswrong