13-18 February 2017
Reviewed by Jenny Bray
The Sheffield theatres are situated in the heart of Sheffield. This show was on at the Lyceum, which is the more traditional Sheffield theatre. It is well signposted around the city centre and there is plenty of parking nearby. The local Q park at Charles Street has an agreement with the theatres to offer the first hour free if you get a ticket from a member of staff at the theatre. The Box Office desk is by the entrance and merchandise is normally sold in this area too. On the right hand side of the theatre is a bar and a kiosk selling sweet treats. Staff also come around the auditorium with ice cream during the interval.
The Play That Goes Wrong is a comedy play within a play based on an amateur theatre company, the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, putting on a show entitled ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’ which is a 1920s murder mystery play. It was written by The Mischief Theatre Company. It was originally performed in the West End in 2014. It won Best New Comedy in the 2015 Olivier Awards. Due to that success it has also now become a touring show.
Upon first entering the auditorium there were crew in black on stage doing things to the set, including trying to fix a bit of the mantle that had fallen off. One then tries to fix a nail on the floor with a hammer but the end of the hammer flies off. The sound guy then *accidentally* talks into his microphone while going back to his desk. The scene is set for the rest of the shows mishaps!
The whole cast did a great job so I believe all the main characters are worthy of note on this occasion. Chris Bean (who for this show was played by understudy Matthew Howell) begins by talking to the audience about his excitement about this show and about previous shows that his company have put on. The shows have included James and The Peach, which turned into James, Where’s the Peach? once the prop went mouldy, Snow White and the Tall, Broad Gentlemen and Cat (due to lack of other cast members). He then becomes Inspector Carter throughout the rest of the show.
The ‘proper’ show begins with Charles Haversham (Jason Callender) having been murdered on the eve of his engagement party. He starts off lying on a chaise longue in the middle of the stage. He then reacts when his hand is repeatedly trodden on and people sit on him! He also appears at various other points of the show, despite being dead! He is supposed to be stretchered off but the stretcher breaks so he does a comedic shuffle, crawl, dead dance off the stage and creeps to where he is supposed to then be. Inspector Carter is called to solve the murder mystery and gets to work trying to solve the case.
It would be impossible to detail everything that goes wrong during the show (It would also be wrong to as that would then spoil it). Suffice to say that there are bits of the set that fall off at various points, the actors miss lines, overact, underact, mispronounce words, end up a line ahead of themselves and go around in circles saying the same lines over and over at one point. There are special effects, mixed up props and a human mantel.
I particularly enjoyed the overacting of Florence Colleymore (initially played by Meg Mortell). The interaction between her and Stage Manager Annie (Katie Bernstein) is brilliant. Annie transforms from being shy to wanting to hog the stage during the length of the show. Their parts are particularly funny once the Lighting and Sound Production guy, Trevor (Graeme Rooney) gets involved.
I also loved the points where Cecil Haversham (Alastair Kirton) completely overacts and does lots of over the top gestures to go with his lines. His and Thomas Colleymoore’s (Edward Judge) interaction is very funny. Thomas also manages some great juggling of pieces of the set, trying to hold them up with feet, hands and his head!
Perkins (Edward Howells) does a great job of being the one who looks like he is holding the show together, while also mispronouncing several words during his lines.
Arthur the Gardener (Alastair Kirton) appears towards the end of the show with an empty lead as Winston, a dog who has disappeared and is being looked for at the very start of the show, is due to be on stage. He then waggles the lead at people when it is due to be Winston’s parts!
The programme is also funny as it is set out with interviews and excerpts with the cast members of the play within the play including listing previous accolades. Trevor’s (the Lighting and Sound Operator) includes the following; ‘Trevor is only participating… so he can obtain much needed credits in his electronics module in order that he pass…’.
The set designers did a brilliant job. The stage is set as a room in Haversham Manor, with a mezzanine floor as the study. There is a lift that goes between the two and the *stairs* that the inspector takes are hilarious. The staged way that everything falls off and reacts as it should throughout the play was excellently scripted and carried out. I’m not sure if I would have known any different had something actually gone wrong accidentally during the show due to the nature of the many, many deliberate mishaps throughout.
The comedy reminded me of the type of slapstick comedy found on programmes like Fawlty Towers and Monty Python. Although I laughed a lot throughout the show and was thoroughly entertained I didn’t find it quite as funny as I’d expected or hoped to based on what I’d read about the show prior to attending. I think some of this was due to knowing that it was all set up, deliberate and scripted which somehow took the edge off some of it. There was constantly and consistently something going wrong at every point of the show though and the audience were often howling with laughter. I also can’t think of any other show that I’ve been to, other than stand up comedy, where I’ve laughed as much.
Tickets cost from £19.50 to £32 (booking fees may apply).
The Play That Goes Wrong is at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield until 18 February 2017. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Lyceum Theatre, Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000