Photo – Jeff Busby
Get this cast life insurance immediately!!! The Play That Goes Wrong is a show about an amateur theatre group ‘The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ who attempt to perform their biggest production yet – The Murder at Haversham Manor, a 1920s murder mystery. As the title of the show suggests, the performance is plagued by a multitude of things that go wrong, much to the enjoyment of the audience that spends the majority of the evening in stitches.
This slap-stick comedy first debuted in London in 2012 and opened on the West End in September 2014 and is still playing. In 2017 tours began in the UK, Broadway and Australia.
Given the Monty-Python/Faulty Towers style humour it is little wonder that this show has enjoyed such popularity. The performances are all over-the-top and larger than life, accentuating the fact that this is the portrayal of amateur dramatics.
The show begins long before the audience has taken their seats. Members of the backstage crew roam the stage trying to fix a broken mantle piece, borrow a hammer and searching for a missing dog while telling the audience to just talk amongst themselves. They even enlist the help of a hapless audience member, getting him to hold things and tidy up the stage before the performance starts.
From the onset of the show I was impressed with the wonderful set, a beautiful manor house in England. To my amazement this set basically disintegrated before my eyes and left me wondering ‘how did they do that?’ Parts of the set would one minute fall off the wall and would have to be held in place by the actors – only to suddenly appear to re-attach themselves ten minutes later. One of my favourite parts of the shows was when the second storey of the set slowly but surely collapsed, leaving more than one character in a precarious position or completely knocked out cold!
I loved the way the actors involved the audience in the production, at one point telling us to stop laughing at their misfortune because they could hear us.
All of the actors did a magnificent job – their energy levels were second to none and their comic timing was nothing short of brilliant. I would hate to see the number of bruises the actors had amassed by the end of each performance!
Cast as the distraught fiancé of murdered aristocrat, Brook Satchwell is well known and loved by Australian audiences who will recognise her from TV shows Neighbours, Water Rats, Packed to the Rafters and Wonderland. I watched with amazement as an extremely toned Satchwell threw herself from one pose to another in a severe but hilarious case of over-characterisation. She was almost cat-like in the way she would leap from the ground to the lap of her fiancé in one seamless movement.
In what is likely the most well known scene of The Play That Goes Wrong – Satchwell’s character Sandra is knocked out cold by a door that is thrown suddenly open. Her fellow actors then try to ‘subtly’ drag her through a set window and out of sight, leaving Satchwell giving an incredibly convincing performance of a rag doll! As a result of Sandra being otherwise engaged, a member of the backstage crew Annie, played by Tammy Weller, finds herself cast into the limelight understudying the role of Sandra.
At first Annie is uncomfortable with the limelight but soon warms up. When the real Sandra regains consciousness and attempts to take back her role Annie becomes almost blood-thirsty for the limelight. There is no doubt that the acrobatic tussle that builds to a crescendo between Satchwell and Weller, steals the show. I could have watched these two women throwing themselves around for hours and even forgot to pay attention to the plot, leaving me still slightly confused about the motive for the murder!
I also enjoyed watching the antics of sound and lighting technician Trevor, played by Andrew Dunn. For most of the performance he was positioned in one of the boxes where the audience had a bird’s eye view of his incompetence which usually consisted of forgetting to play a sound effect, playing the wrong music, or upstaging the performers.
All in all it is hard to single out particular actors as everyone gave a solid and hilarious performance. The Play That Goes Wrong actually gets everything quite right! If you feel the need for a good laugh, you’re sure to enjoy this captivating performance.
Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, Kenny Wax Ltd and Stage Presence in association with ABA International Touring and David Atkins Enterprises present the Mischief Theatre Company production
The Play That Goes Wrong
Director Mark Bell
Venue: His Majesty’s Theatre, 825 Hay Street, Perth
Dates: from 31 May 2017