If ever there was a play were comic timing is even more important than the actual plot… then THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG IS IT! Two hours of surreal slapstick mania and a play within a play performed by an utterly incompetent cast (performed by highly competent actors) promise an entertaining night out with a difference!

The PLAY THAT GOES… begins before the play begins – with activity unfolding on stage as backstage crew and assorted technicians busy themselves to get the set ready in time for the performance. The play in question is a 1920’s set murder mystery called MURDER AT HAVERSHAM MANOR, performed by members of the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and it is its (fictional) director Chris Bean (played with gusto by Jake Curran) who introduces the production by means of overtly pompous words and gestures. The curtain then falls before it immediately rises again and within seconds the first murder victim, Charles Haversham (‘Jonathan Harris’, played by Steven Rostance) lies dead on his chaise longue in the living room. At first, his brother Cecil Haversham (‘Max Bennett’, played by Bobby Hirston) and Thomas Colleymore (‘Robert Grove’, played by Kazeem Tosin Amore) simply cannot figure out as to why Charles Haversham, lord of the manor so to speak and engaged to be married to sassy flapper girl Florence Colleymore (‘Sandra Wilkinson’, played by Elena Valentine), would end up getting murdered. Or was it suicide? Inspector Carter (‘Chris Bean’ again and played by Jake Curran again) soon arrives to investigate but the incompetence of the potential suspects including butler Perkins (‘Dennis Tyde’, played by Benjamin McMahon) seriously hampers any progress in his investigations. What am I saying! This premise is pretty much the only straightforward thing about the entire show as soon, everything will have descended into nutty chaos: Sir Charles is supposed to be dead but his corpse keeps shuffling and turning. Cecil and Florence enjoy a secret affair but her dopey brother Thomas does not seem to have an inkling! Accusations and suspicions are delivered at machine gun-speed while props keep falling down and breaking – not to mention the constant slamming of doors and objects into various cast members including Florence… who gets knocked out flat when Thomas opens the door. Trying to lift the unconscious flapper out of the window is something that needs to be seen to be believed, yes it’s that hilarious!

Even more hilarious is Florence’s return in Act 2, though now she is played by stage manager Annie Twilloil (Catherine Dryden) while Lighting & Sound Operator Trevor Watson (Gabriel Paul) adds ever more chaos to the overall scenario by looking for his precious Duran Duran CD box set while operating from a theatre box nearest to the stage. The gags are relentless as is the mounting surreal and barmy humour reminiscent of ‘Pete and Dud’ or Monty Python. It is almost impossible to go into finer details as everything happens so fast and at the same time at that, adding to the increasing sense of hysterical mania. Quite how the actors manage not to damage their vocal chords by delivering their lines at such breakneck speed is anyone’s guess! It’s also physically demanding (and that’s an understatement!) what with sword fights, punch-ups and what have you. This really is an absolute treat for all those who love their humour wild and wacky, though it wouldn’t hurt if occasionally at least the lines would be delivered slower so the audience can get a chance to keep up with the relentless pace.

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG runs until Sat 17th of March (www.capitaltheatres.com)

(Photo credit: Robert Day)
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