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The Play That Goes Wrong, The New Theatre – Review

The Play That Goes WrongSilly, over-the-top but hugely enjoyable, The Play That Goes Wrong is the latest of the ‘… Goes Wrong’ farcical trilogy from the burgeoning Mischief Theatre.

Set up as a play-within-a-play, the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society have put on a 1920s murder mystery but – as the title suggests – it doesn’t quite go to plan and all falls expertly apart.

Like an Agatha Christie staged by Basil Fawlty, it takes familiar tropes and mocks them mercilessly, sending up the genre and themselves as they go.

Despite the whodunnit premise, this is a show ultimately about theatre and The Play That Goes Wrong takes as much pleasure in involving its knowing audience in the proceedings as it does in gleefully tricking them.

The company play with the audience’s assumptions and fears, most notably during an impressively precarious scene with a second suspended stage.

As well as the inherent understanding of its audience, the joy of the play lies in the actors’ skill at physical comedy.

Make no mistake: these two hours are an endurance test, crafted by three young writers who seem to take great pleasure in putting their fellow actors in pain.

There is an added enjoyment in trying to guess what, if anything, has gone wrong on a particular night; Mischief Theatre’s background in improvisation makes this a tricky task as the cast fail to miss a beat.

The Play That Goes WrongAt times, the plot suffers from lack of clarity as the visual spectacle and physical aspect takes centre stage.

And while the sketches are carefully crafted, on occasion they feel too familiar – perhaps one of the side effects of tackling such an overcrowded genre.

Its layered approach to the whodunnit also leads to fresh ideas, too.

A feisty and unglamorous Scot could seem like lazy stereotyping in this classically English setting; the added dimension of the second narrative – the drama troupe’s handywoman jumping into the female role, competing with the overbearing leading lady – makes this portrayal work.

In fact, the rivalry between the pair – and Charlie Russell and Lotti  Maddox ’s apparent joy in relentlessly outdoing each other – makes for one of the more entertaining elements of this cleverly observed show.

The show is currently in the middle of a national tour after being hauled from 50-seater pubs to the Edinburgh Festival and beyond.

With audiences lapping it up across the country, things are going very right for The Play That Goes Wrong – and as they should.

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