Reviewed by Catherine Joyce
Last night (7 August) we went to see The Play Goes Wrong at the Blackpool Opera House. The theatre is located in the centre of Blackpool in the historic Winter Gardens complex and is a lovely venue with a lot of character. Blackpool Opera House is one of the UK’s biggest theatres, seating almost 3,000 and from what we could see most of these seats were full for the opening night of The Play That Goes Wrong.
There is plenty of parking nearby, either on ground level or multi story car parks, despite visiting in the middle of Blackpool’s summer season there was no problem finding a space. We paid £5.50 to park on a nearby car park that was only a few minutes walk away from the theatre. The theatre has a choice of bars, and being situated in the centre of Blackpool there is plenty of choice when it comes to pre-show drinks or meals.
The Play That Goes Wrong is a comedy about the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society who after a number of false starts have finally managed to put on a “proper” production. After years of struggling they present a murder mystery titled “The Murder at Haversham Manor.” The set is ready, roles have been cast, actors have learned their lines and the backstage crew is ready to go. It is worth arriving early as before the play officially starts the cast are making last minute adjustments to the set and even rope in a member of the audience to help, so there are plenty of laughs before the show even starts!
The curtain opens prematurely, revealing the dead body of Charles Haversham walking across the stage, not quite ready to begin and from there on in the havoc continues.
The set is really an extra member of the cast, causing just as many problems and laughs as anybody else. Nothing seems to stay fixed to the wall, doors either remain frustratingly stuck in their frames or fall of their hinges and even the second floor of the house makes an alarming bid for fame. Sound effects come in late or not at all… and the backstage crew end up front of stage more often than they should.
The cast were really exceptional, Benjamin McMahon, playing butler Perkins had great fun with his dialogue, missing cues and stumbling over the pronunciation of more difficult words which he had written on the back of his hand as a prompt. The two women, Elena Valentine as the bereaved Florence and Catherine Dryden as stage manager turned understudy made a particularly funny double act towards the end of the play when rivalries got the better of them quickly turning violent!
We’ve seen many plays and musicals and know that in the real world things do have a habit of going wrong, we love to see how an actor can quickly ad lib around a missing prop or missed cue and find that this can actually add to the enjoyment of the night (I’m sure the performers might not see it that way!). The problem with this play though is that we were expecting everything to go wrong and so the slapstick and obvious gags weren’t as funny as if they were unscripted and for us didn’t produce more than a chuckle.
Having said that most of the audience were finding it funny and there was plenty of laughter and a great atmosphere in the Opera House.
The play was well thought out and meticulously played by the cast but didn’t quite succeed in making my sides split. It was the comedic equivalent of trying to tickle oneself; it never quite works because you can always guess what is coming.
It is still well worth a visit though if you fancy a light-hearted night out with a few laughs along the way.
Tickets cost from £15 (booking fees may apply).
The Play That Goes Wrong is at the Blackpool Opera House from 7-11 August 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk or call the box office on 0844 856 1111.
Winter Gardens & Opera House Theatre, 97 Church Street, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY1 1HL