★★★★★ – Dangerous, jaw-dropping and comedy genius!
Mischief Theatre, in role as The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, brought to the Birmingham Rep stage an uproariously funny murder mystery entitled The Murder at Haversham Manor and it went south, literally.
The Play That Goes Wrong was a comedic masterpiece, like its successor Peter Pan, Goes Wrong, with dangerous and risky tricks that left audiences clutching on to their seats as pieces of stage fell off and got thrown around, sometimes missing the actors by inches. The actors were so efficient in everything they did, from balancing three objects across two body parts, to expertly delivering their lines while dodging canvasses, candelabras and each other. What was sublime about The Play That Goes Wrong was that if ever you have seen an amateur, or a badly produced professional, play, this show embodies the different mistakes and disasters that have occurred in the former shows. There’ll be a moment where you cannot help but recall a bad production where sets had fallen down or actors had genuinely forgotten lines and asked for “line” throughout entire speeches.
Jason Callender who plays Jonathan playing Charles Haversham was brilliant. His gag was always turning up at the wrong point in the play, revealing the ending every time. It was very comedic, too, when Jonathan was rarely allowed to play dead, for actors clumsily walked on him, sat on him, or fell on him. He made the audience laugh at his every entrance, and I chiefly loved his sneaking off stage wriggling subtly on the floor as if to kid the audience that we couldn’t see him depart. Patrick Warner who plays Chris playing Inspector Carter was a comedy genius. Every reaction was crafted to perfection, and his lines were well-timed with the action. The audience hung on to every word he said. He played the director too, so it was particularly hilarious when, under his breath, he would mutter a direction to understudies that had come on to fill in for a part. Ham acting is a feature often prominent in amateur murder mystery productions, and Alastair Kirton playing Max playing Cecil Haversham did a sterling job showcasing this. Max’s sawing the air with his hands and over dramatising his role while stopping to smile as the audience laughed during one of his lines, was incredibly entertaining. When Max changed role to be the Gardener he flashed his clothes to tell it was still him, and that he had returned, but as a different character. Absolutely hilarious. Lastly, Natasha Culley as Sandra Wilkinson enacting the role of Florence Colleymoore was a treat. Sandra was everything that had ever gone wrong with acting all sewn together in one actress. Her ticks, shallow demeanour, and not able to improvise without direction, was a great feast for the senses. Her overproduction of movement as she spoke, too, was hilarious. Overall, each cast member contributed to one of funniest nights I’ve had this year.
The Play That Goes Wrong was especially entertaining for the set was a safety hazard, as the study, built atop of the drawing room, with no rails or support, collapsed gradually while the actors were still on there. It eventually fell down while an actor was under it, but the dexterity by which the actors moved and positioned themselves, made the accidents sort of safe, and we could exhale once again.
Mischief Theatre is like Alton Towers, you queue to get on, you get several scares, and then you want to hop on again and again.
The Play That Goes Wrong is playing at The Birmingham Rep until 24th June