The Play That Goes Wrong
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
WELCOME to a play within a play - Murder at Haversham Manor presented by the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society.
It all begins in the foyer when sound engineer Trevor (Graeme Rooney) runs through the gathering audience in a desperate search for a missing dog, a Springer spaniel, which is apparently an essential part of the production and which has escaped, perhaps taking with it the boxed set of Duran Duran CDs which Trevor has also misplaced.
On stage the stage crew are desperately trying to do some last minute repairs of a door that won’t stay closed and a mantelpiece that keeps falling off.
Chris Bean (Patrick Warner) who is not only playing Inspector Carter but is also the director, designer, costume designer, prop maker, box office manager etc etc eventually ‘finds his light’ (as they say in the business) and gives an opening pre-amble and introduction to the play and the players.
He is excited to explain that at last the company have been able to produce a play that has been fully and suitably cast, unlike all of their previous productions some of which had to be renamed accordingly. (For example, the musical Cat, James and the Peach and Snow White and the Tall Broad Gentleman.)
So this sets the scene for what is to be a fast, furious and hysterically funny spoof murder mystery.
Taking a tongue in cheek poke at amateur theatre, as the title suggests, everything that could possibly go wrong does - misplaced and failing props, forgotten lines, doors jamming, mistimed entrances, wrong sound effects (Yes, Trevor finds his Duran Duran CD!), the list goes on.
The whole production is a cleverly controlled catastrophe which has the audience laughing - no guffawing -out loud from beginning to end
It is impossible to single out individual cast members as all give energetic, physically challenging performances. Being able to act ‘badly’ well is an art and they have perfected it.
Jonathan Harris as Charles Haversham (Jason Callender) whose fingers are trodden on relentlessly, Sandra Wilkinson as Florence Colleymore (Meg Mortell) who is rendered unconscious frequently, Max Bennett as Cecil Haversham (Alastair Kirton) who enjoys the audience attention, Dennis Tyde as Perkins (Edward Howells) who regularly mispronounces words he has written on his hands, Annie Twilloil the stage manager (Katie Bernstein) who ‘goes on with the book’ at short notice, and Robert Grove as Thomas Colleymoore (Edward Judge) who ensures that the show goes on despite wrestling with a desk, a chair, a globe and a plant, whilst hanging precariously from a platform are all part of the strong cast.
They deliver slapstick comedy in bucket loads with excellent timing, and well rehearsed choreography which must keep the health and safety risk assessors very busy! As one of the actors is heard to say ‘this set is a death trap!’
It perhaps becomes somewhat predictable and for us the knockabout slapstick got a little tiresome towards the end but overall it is an entertainingly silly piece of theatre that has the audience in raucous laughter throughout.
The play will be ‘bringing the house down’ until 8th April
Rosemary Manjunath and Elizabeth Smith