Please note that this review will be somewhat shorter than usual due to the reviewers being either unable to see the performance due to tears of laughter, hear the actors above raucous enjoyment and snorting, and having to leave the Marlowe Theatre auditorium on a few occasions due to fear of peeing oneself with laughter.
The Play That Goes Wrong begins before we enter the auditorium. Outside in the foyer the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society – who are putting on a 1920s murder mystery for our delight – are already running late, arguing and crashing about. Once inside the audience are straight away drawn into the action, with one member of the audience being hauled on the stage to fix broken scenery. The activity takes place not just to the front, but up and down the aisles, and all around the theatre.
This is slapstick and farce, and hilarious with it. Never forced or awkward, there’s a warmhearted fun to the often unexpected twists to the performance. Even when we know things are coming, such as the repeated joke of one cast member always missing his cue and interrupting other scenes, it just seems to get funnier and funnier rather than tired. Things disintegrate so badly that it’s clear their execution can only be achieved by real professionals.
Focus is on the physical comedy, with injury playing a big role. There’s some gentle teasing of nostalgic am dram pieces, and it’s these small touches that endear us to the characters. Once we’ve stopped snorting, crying and peeing, we’re able to sit back and enjoy it for what it is – a comedic masterpiece of mad cap brilliance. The Play That Goes Wrong gets it so so right.