I can safely say that I have never laughed so hard or for so long as I did last night, in all the years that I’ve been alive. 

Sitting in the Birmingham Hippodrome watching a performance of The Play That Went Wrong, I had constant tears streaming down my face as I delighted in the experience of a truly brilliant work of theatre. I was not alone either when it came to thoroughly enjoying the occasion - one look at my fellow audience members and it was clear that fits of laughter were very definitely the order of the day. 

From beginning to end, Mischief Theatre’s hit production boasts more thrills than a theme park. Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, the award-winning comedy is liberally peppered with perfectly timed killer dialogue and positively awash with all manner of bumbling buffoonery. A play within a play, in the style of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off, the show’s premise sees the entirely fictitious, utterly incompetent and seriously accident-prone Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society doing their very best to stage a 1920s’ murder-mystery entitled Murder At Haversham Manor. Cue all manner of laugh-out-loud disasters - from missed cues and misplaced props, to repeated dialogue and collapsing scenery.

The acting from the entire cast is superb. Everyone plays their part to sheer perfection, turning ‘the happening of disasters’ into a satirical art form. My favourite performance - and it was hard to pick just one - has to be that of the wonderful Robert Grove in the role of Thomas Colleymore. His character, so calm and full of perseverance, is the glue to which everyone else attempts to stick. Channel the voice and presence of General Melchett in Blackadder Goes Forth and you’ll have a good idea of how he played the part. His straight face and timing was everything. 

The set design on this production is very clever indeed. Haversham Manor reflects the kind of location beloved of Agatha Christie. A 1920s-style Edwardian country pile naturally ripe for murder, its walls came crashing down, its mantlepieces failed to hold, its doors stuck and its floors gave way, all bang on cue and to spectacular effect. There’s nothing more visually impactful than a malfunctioning set to convey a sense of theatrical disaster, and in this way, the dramatically collapsing Haversham Manor very much acted as the show’s ‘12th man’, inspiring its fair share of laughter from the thoroughly amused audience. The skill and vision that must surely go into making such disaster seem effortless is without doubt an act of genius. A round of applause, therefore, for the duo behind the magic, Roberto Surace and Ric Mountjoy. 

Brilliantly blending a variety of genres, from murder-mysteries to pantomime, Mischief Theatre’s gobsmackingly superb The Play That Went Wrong offers something for everyone. As such, it provides the kind of family-friendly entertainment that could well go down a treat with youngsters during this week’s half-term holiday.       

Looking back on the performance now, I can’t help but wonder what Agatha Christie would’ve made of it all. Probably much the same as we did. An absolute must-see!

PS: Let the cast know if you find Winston...! 

Five stars Reviewed by Stephen Spinks on Tuesday 26 October

The Play That Went Wrong continues to show at Birmingham Hippodrome until Sat 30 October. Click HERE for tickets.