Nicola Harvey discovers that’s a lot to like about The Play That Goes Wrong

I had heard great things about The Play that Goes Wrong and was really looking forward to finding out how much went wrong, and how. The answer is that pretty much everything that could go wrong in a play did and it was a totally hilarious evening.

The premise of the play is that the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society is putting on Murder at Haversham Manor. They aren’t a company that has been blessed with huge success in the casting arena. Previous disastrous productions have included James and the…Peach, Snow White and the well proportioned gentleman, and various others.

If you like physical comedy along the lines of Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em, you’ll love the constant flow of slapstick and visual gags. They are only effective because of the excellent delivery and timing of the cast.

The set design is a brilliant backdrop but also pretty much another cast member in terms of its contribution to the comedy. Right from the beginning, when a very sporting guy from the audience allowed himself to be used to prop up bits of the constantly disintegrating set, which brings almost as many laughs as the actors.

There is a plot of sorts, and it is part of the genius of the writing that you pretty much know what’s going to happen in the play within the play, know that the story isn’t the point, but enjoy it rattling to its ridiculous conclusion.

I would recommend this to pretty much anyone. Children over eight or so will love it, parents will love it for its own sake as well as through their children’s eyes, and anyone else would have to have had their funny bone extracted not to find themselves laughing out loud.

The Play That Goes Wrong plays at the Wyvern Theatre Swindon until 16 June. More details here.