Theatre Review: The Play That Goes Wrong at Theatre Royal

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of an extremely disorganised, poorly financed, and cripplingly amateur dramatic production?

As we know, the theatre loves nothing more than itself which is likely why things not working out for the performance arts is often the brunt of various stories and drama productions today. None more so than in the spectacular winner of the WhatsOnStage and Olivier Awards for Best New Comedy, The Play That Goes Wrong.

The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are putting on a 1920s murder mystery, but as the title suggests, everything goes rather pear-shaped.

The play itself is based on a fairly-simple concept: everything that could possibly go wrong whilst on a stage does, and catastrophically so, affecting the actual performance of ‘A Murder at Havisham House’, its players and – needless to say – its alarmingly unstable set. But the more the show disintegrates before the audience’s eyes the funnier it, naturally, gets – ta daa! A perfect satirical cocktail, much to the delight of Glasgow’s packed-out opera house on opening night, Monday.

TPTGW perfectly depicts the ways in which amateur actors warp in the heat of the stage spotlight and morph into egotistical shadows of themselves, desperate to make Tony Award Winning impressions whilst trapped in an inept framework. For something that sounds so simplistic, it is engaging and hilarious from start to finish. The jokes were witty and remarkably quick; punchlines were continuously being fired from every angle of the stage but often without enough time between each to fully appreciate all of them.

The current touring production has evolved from Henry Sheilds, Henry Lewis and Jonathan Sayer’s (together, Mischief Theatre Company) hugely successful one-hour-long production and now has a running time of roughly two hours and ten minutes. Although very funny, many of the sustained plot lines become quite repetitive and there was definitely a dip in the audience’s energy in second half of the show.

Additionally, it was apparent from the onset that the set would, evidently, fall to pieces as depicted through a short acting sequence as the audience filtered towards their seats of the fireplace falling apart and the “stage crew” taping it to the wall and, of course, the show’s marketing merchandise. Certain aspects of the show were predictable, for example: the grand chandelier in the centre of the stage wouldn’t just be hanging there for decoration, now would it? And a Study suspended on a ledge above stage level? Called it: someone was definitely going to fall of that.

Fellow Scot Graeme Rooney plays the role of Trevor, a lackadaisical sound engineering student of Cornley Polytechnic who is, eventually, roped into covering a female part after her untimely stage departure (citing injury). His immediately recognisable highland accent was a favourite among fans, rendering him one of the most enjoyable aspects of this particular production. Patrick Warner, who plays the role of the exasperated show director Chris, was particularly outstanding and his unscripted interaction with the enthusiastic Scottish crowds mid-breakdown make him one of the most memorable roles.

I would highly recommend everyone experiences this show. There are few plays quite like it.

Catch The Play That Goes Wrong at Theatre Royal on 10/11 March – tickets prices range from  £15.90 – £39.90.

Image Credit: Helen Murray

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