The Play That Goes Wrong – Manchester Opera House

The Play That Goes Wrong is a farce from LAMDA graduates, the Mischief Theatre company. It has achieved profound success on the West End, winning the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2015. On the back of such a successful run on the West End, the play has embarked on a UK tour, receiving critical acclaim.

The Play That Goes Wrong Mischief Theatre Manchester Opera House Manchester Theatre Review
Picture Credit – Helen Murray.

In a similar fashion to Michael Frayn‘s Noises Off or Victoria Wood‘s Acorn Antiques, this production playfully mixes slapstick comedy with funny dialogue, and jokes keep coming at a relentless pace. As the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Society stage their latest production,The Murder at Haversham Manor, everything that could go wrong does go wrong, much to the audience’s delight. From intentionally hammy acting, actors getting their lines wrong, the parts of the set falling down to cast injuries, this play capitalises on the conventions of the farcical genre and delivers a thoroughly entertaining evening. Even before the play even begins, the fourth wall is instantly broken as the cast look around the auditorium for their missing cast member, a dog named Winston.

Throughout the play, the fourth wall is effectively broken as cast members interact with the audience and the play’s ‘director’, played by the brilliant Jake Curran, introduces his Cornley Polytechnic Society’s production. After the interval, he apologetically explains to the audience that they may have noticed “one or two mistakes“. I love the way that this play breaks the fourth wall. It helps keep the play fresh and thoroughly entertaining.

None of the cast is better at breaking the fourth wall than the ‘sound engineer’, Trevor, played by Gabriel Paul, who physically sits in the audience’s space of the auditorium at his sound desk. At the risk of revealing any spoilers, it is his interaction with the audience that made me laugh the most.

To say that The Play That Goes Wrong is an incredibly funny play does it a disservice. It is hard to put into words just how funny a play is that makes you cry with laughter. I had tears rolling down my face and even the next day, my face still ached from the prolonged laughter that this play created. There were points where I genuinely struggled to breathe. I have honestly never seen anything as funny as this play in my life.

The Play That Goes Wrong Mischief Theatre Manchester Opera House Manchester Theatre Review
Picture Credit – Helen Murray.

From start to finish, this play is absolutely hilarious and I loved every minute of it. I am in complete admiration of all involved in this play. It is expertly choreographed with and comically timed to absolute perfection. Its relentless pace left me exhausted, let alone the superbly talented ensemble cast. As the play continues, this pace gets even more intense as it hurtles towards calamity. The more that goes wrong, the funnier it gets, as the characters get even more exasperated, desperately trying to cover their mistakes. The sheer physical exertion and stamina of every member of the cast is awe inspiring.

It is clear that The Play That Went Wrong won’t be everybody’s cup of tea. It is preposterously silly and gets even more absurd as the play continues. It is traditionally British, and being heavily reliant on slapstick comedy smacks of Charlie Chaplin’s films. It is a conventional farce, which may mean that it feels predictable to some audience members.

However, Mischief Theatre raise the bar an extra level. Just when you feel that nothing else can go wrong, it gets even worse. When you predict what will happen next, they defy your expectations and heighten the antics further than your imagination can comprehend. To me, this made the play refreshing and gave it an originality. Even though I have seen Noises Off, The Play That Goes Wrong constantly had me guessing what on earth could happen next, and how the comedy can be increased to another level.

I had a great time watching this play. It is the funniest play I have ever seen. Absolutely hilarious, and thoroughly entertaining, my ribs hurt from laughing so much. I will definitely be getting tickets to Mischief Theatre’s comedy about a bank robbery, imaginably titled The Comedy About a Train Robbery, which is on at The Lowry Theatre later in the year.

The Play That Goes Wrong fully deserves the Olivier Award it received. I recommend everyone reading this to watch it. You won’t regret it!

In addition to this tour, The Play That Goes Wrong is currently running at the Duchess Theatre on London’s West End.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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