‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ at Duchess Theatre – Review

“Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!”

By Jonathan Spira on 17 December 2015
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“Never have so many laughed so hard for so long,” was my takeaway after practically hyperventilating during a recent performance of “The Play That Goes Wrong.”

What we have here is a play that advertises that “no one famous” will be appearing. Upon approaching the box office, I spotted a poster in front of the theater announcing that “Tom Cruise will not be appearing at this performance.” Worthy of mention is that tickets start at just £20, a bargain anywhere, but especially in London.

It starts with the cast and crew of the “Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society” attempting to stage a 1920s whodunit murder mystery, a very silly and rather physical production at that. “Attempt” is the operative word here.



Yes, it’s a play within a play, complete with hapless thespians, mistimed sound effects, bungled lines, …. and that’s just about as much as I’ll reveal (other than the aforementioned non-stop laughter).

The show’s three creators, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, all members of the Mischief Theatre Company, channeled their inner Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Laurel and Hardy to create a show that succeeds thanks to blown lines, falling scenery, blows to the head, and completely bungled entrances. To say it’s “another nice mess” would be a gross understatement.

The three were all gainfully employed elsewhere at minimum wage jobs while performing their own one-act play in a small room over a pub. (There’s no word as to whether the room survived, however.) Their dedication to their craft clearly paid off and “The Play That Went Wrong” opened to smash reviews and recently extended its run through September 2016.

Underscoring the conceit, the show’s producer, Mark Bentley, whom I ran into the night I attended, apologized for the terrible show in a complete deadpan. Yes, everyone seems to be in on it.

Be forewarned: the show already has a spin-off, “Peter Pan Goes Wrong,” at the Apollo Shaftsbury in Soho. Watch out for falling Tinkerbelles is the only warning you’ll get.

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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