Theatre Review: The Play That Goes Wrong

Showing at the Theatre Royal Bath until 7 August

The Play That Goes Wrong proved itself right last night at the Theatre Royal Bath. The combustible farce – filled with highly physical comedy, a family-friendly stream of silliness and the best of British slapstick, didn’t fail to send the audience into infectious fits of giggles on its opening night.

Even before we’d found our seats, the curtains were up and mishaps were already taking place. A hapless stage manager, whose studio was positioned in one of the theatre’s boxes just right of the stage, wrestled with sticking doors and faulty props. From the outset, it was clear the set would prove problematic at best.

As we were introduced to the play within a play, we watched as the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society put on a 1920s production of The Murder at Haversham Manor – a whodunnit, if you will. However, as it quickly descended into chaos and actors continued to be plagued by technical malfunctions of the highest order, taking both cast and crew utterly by surprise each time, hilarity ensued.

Directed by Sean Turner and written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, the production has come a long way since its humble beginnings at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London. The three writers, who all trained at the London Academy of Music and Art and founded Mischief Theatre in 2008, started out at the London and Edinburgh fringes before touring the UK and internationally. The Play That Goes Wrong is now in its seventh year in the West End and has become a global phenomenon. Winner of multiple awards including the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy and a Tony Award for its Broadway transfer, the show is a testament to the hard work and determination of this group of friends from drama school.

The production is undoubtedly a technical triumph. The 12-strong company makes full use of Nigel Hook’s Olivier Award-winning set design while the intricately planned fiascos are an ingenious feat of stage management.

It takes great skill to bungle a performance so well. The cast expertly fumble their props precisely on cue and the set exacerbates their inadequacies in just as timely a manner, crumbling right on the mark. The show’s runaway success is undoubted and unsurprising and will certainly continue to draw in audiences wherever it goes. The Play That Goes Wrong – a very welcome respite this week.

Book tickets here:

Main image: Tom Babbage (centre, falling) as Max and company – Credit Robert Day