To quote national treasures, Ant and Dec “It’s the funniest show we’ve seen”. That line alone sold me and convinced me to buy tickets. The large quantity of stars on its poster also dragged me in. I may be a sucker for good advertising, but I am sure glad I am.
I took advantage of the new Everyman scheme and bought myself a budget ticket. I was really impressed by the £5 price tag for 16-25 year olds but it came with the hefty price of a teeny amount of leg room. I experienced cramp in my knees as they dug into the chair in front, but hey that’s the fun of sitting in the gods.
Despite being wounded at the knee down it is easy to become distracted as stage hands rush around asking if we had seen Mr Havisham’s spaniel. I think we all looked slightly taken aback as we all thought it was genuine question from one of the theatre’s staff. Faces went from puzzled to smirks as the stagehand continued with an overelaborate description and shouted across the auditorium to another stage hand heckling the stalls below.
After a short introduction from the “director” of the play, explaining we would be watching “The Murder at Havisham Manor”, the production began with some classic slapstick, setting the tone for the rest of the evening and allowing anyone who doesn’t find physical comedy remotely amusing to leave immediately.
If you find outrageously silly and farce humour a little too unsophisticated then this definitely isn’t the play for you. There is no intelligent wit or snappy satire for you to ponder over before chuckling. This play is all about instantaneous tear inducing belly laughs. And it does it oh so well. I like a bit of perceptive and sharp humour as much as the next person, however ‘The play that goes wrong’ allows you to relax and let the humour sustain your interest whilst taking you through the story. Instead the intelligence runs a little deeper, there is hints of clever foreshadowing that can often go amiss if you are roaring at the wrong moment.
I can’t express how funny the production is without giving everything away, each piece of set that falls apart, each malapropism, and each stumble perfectly executed with split second timing. They wore you out by overworking the jokes, exhausting them right up until the moment they got unfunny, which is when they went full circle and became hilarious once more. I was pleased to see that verbal comedy didn’t suffer due to the play being based around physical and slapstick humour. The lines accompanied the actions, enhancing them but not upstaging them, critical as otherwise your ears can shut off and leave you feeling less engaged.
The stage started as nothing special, and for the first half appeared to have a few tricks up its sleeve but it is not until the second half when things start to unravel. Mishaps that actually shocked and scared me, as I forgot what I was watching and was momentarily convinced they were real. It’s not until the end when you realise just how elaborate the simple seeming set is.
Normally you’d cringe and squirm if you watch a play that makes a mistake but ‘The play that goes wrong’ allows you to break through this wall of British politeness into a world of self indulgent self ridicule. Genius in its most simplistic form.