Fawlty Towers meets Noises Off in this multi award-winning West End smash hit comedy.

Mischief Theatre Company’s much-loved show arrives in the region on the back of a fantastic reputation and a couple of successful West End runs. For those not in the know, the play focuses on the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s attempt to put on a 1920s-set murder-mystery. The only trouble is, the bumbling thesps are more than a little accident-prone - so much so, in fact, that they’re not even sure they’ll manage to reach the curtain call...

Reviewed by Carol Lovatt

Theatre is a tricky beast. Sometimes a potentially good idea fails to lead to a memorable production. On the other hand, a seemingly unremarkable concept can occasionally result in a meaningful and thought-provoking piece of work. 

When amateur dramatics enter the equation, all hell can break loose...

Cue Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s production of Murder At Haversham Manor, a potentially good idea that unfortunately goes disastrously - and hilariously - wrong...

Taking its lead from hit West Ender Noises Off, The Play That Goes Wrong has all the hallmarks of a very British slapstick comedy, replete with hammed-up acting and exquisite timing. Essentially a play about a play, it tells the story of an am-dram company’s efforts to mount an Agatha Christie-style whodunit. Unfortunately, Murder At Haversham Manor is more akin to a night spent with the Addams Family!

From the start of The Play That Goes Wrong, the audience are fully immersed in the production. Dialogue is delivered directly to them, in so doing breaking the usually sacrosanct ‘fourth wall’ to create an unexpected and greatly appreciated interactive experience. And that’s what makes this play both refreshingly different and incredibly funny. For anyone who’s ever been involved with amateur dramatics, the absurdity of it all will strike some real chords.

The story revolves around the murder of Charles Haversham - the dashing fiancé of Florence Colleymore - and the subsequent quest for his killer. The staging throughout is outstanding. As a series of catastrophic events unfolds, it’s never quite certain what will happen next. From collapsing floors to flying windows and trapeze-like ladders, the play is fast moving and thoroughly entertaining. The actors, for whom it must be an utterly exhausting experience, maintain the show’s frenetic pace with sublime skill.

The cast of The Play That Goes Wrong are consummate professionals who play the parts of bumbling amateurs with real style and panache. Jason Callender, a familiar face from CBBC’s 4 O’Clock Club, gives a smooth and engaging performance as Jonathan. Edward Judge is magnificent as the bombastic and disaster-prone Robert, while Alastair Kirton is genuinely funny as Max, a man who clearly finds am-dram a real lark. Meg Mortell brings an impressive feistiness to the role of Sandra, while Patrick Warner cleverly portrays his character Chris’s enthusiasm and desperation in equal measure. The calm yet exasperated Dennis - the ‘glue’ that holds the company together - is played with genuine pathos by Edward Howells. Excellent supporting performances come from Katie Bernstein as Annie and Graeme Rooney as Trevor.

For anyone who fancies a good laugh, The Play That Goes Wrong is not to be missed.

At the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, until Saturday 6 May and on tour nationally thereafter.

Further information here

4 Stars on Tue, 02 May 2017

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