Monday, 3 July 2017

“The Play That Goes Wrong”
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
This multi award winning play returns to the Nottingham Theatre Royal stage and, in my humble opinion, a welcome return.
So what’s this play all about, I hear you utter.
The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are putting on a 1920s murder mystery, but as the title suggests, everything that can go wrong… does! The accident-prone thespians battle against all odds to make it through to their final curtain call.
A play like this is complex and technical to make it look so accident prone. Just think of Les Dawson’s piano playing. It’s out of tune but doing things wrong and playing out of tune to a professional is something that, for them, goes against everything that they’ve been trained to do. It’s natural to perform without mistakes, enter on cue etc, so to deliberately go out to make mistakes isn’t the natural or easiest of jobs to perform.
Needless to say, it is one of the funniest plays that’s been doing the rounds over the last few years, and described as “Fawlty Towers” meets “Noises Off”.
Apart from the wonderful comedy value in this play, you have to admire the comic timing of the actors and the physical energy the cast have, a vital ingredient for any good farce.
The technical and mechanical side of the set is also something to admire as it gradually disintegrates before your very eyes, sometimes making you worry about the safety of the actors.
Doors that stick, wobbly scenery, mis timed sound affects, missed lines, wall decorations and attachments which won't stay put and hammy actors, they're all here. Getting things so wrong has made this play so right.
This is one play where the actors definitely earn their wage;as do the actors playing the actors, talking of which…..
Katie Bernstein played Annie, the stage manager in The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society but also steps into one of the other character's shoes, ending, quite literally, with a battle of One upmanship.
Graeme Rooney played Trevor who was the sound and lighting man. Oh the power he has with those sound effects. At first he played his stage role as one of the other characters with trepidation, he then started to get the bug. (Trying not to give anything away here, spoiler wise).
Patrick Warner played Chris Bean, the director as well as Inspector Carter, with a whole host of other roles within The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society. (Check the credits in the programme). Echoes of John Cleese in his character and physicality.
Jason Callender is Johnathan the actor playing Charles Haversham. His dead body scenes start the chuckle muscles running, but never have I seen a more active corpse!
Edward Howells plays an actor called Dennis Tyde, who in turn plays the manservant Perkins. His pronunciation of certain words in his script are hilarious. His "hammy" acting as Dennis is also a joy.
Adam Byron was Robert Grove, the actor, playing Thomas Colleymore. Grove is the consummate actor who lets nothing faze him. Make sure you read the programme for an insight into Robert Grove as well.
Meg Mortell was Sandra, who played Florence, the fiancee of the "murdered" Charles Haversham.. Sandra loves being in the limelight, no matter what, or who may stand in her way. The show, for her, must go on!
Alistair Kirton played Max, who doubled as Cecil Haversham as well as Arthur the Gardener. As Max he relished the attention he got from the audience when he overdid his part, layering the comedy element. His simple task of answering the phone is comedy gold.
Confused, well so you should be, but what a delightful bubble of confusion. I've tried not to go into the characters and the actors plated by the actors and the plot too much because this is all about the comedy lines, the timing and the visual aspect.
All I will add is that this is one clever piece of theatre and band of actors. It's slapstick at it's best borrowing many stunts and acts from the circus and clowning. The timing of that physical slapstick is as tight as you'll ever see.
Director, Max Bell ekes every single aspect of "amateur" drama mishaps, (which by the way never happens in real life local theatre drama, does it?). His sharp observations also echo back to the silent movie style of comedy of Chaplin, Keaton and Stan and Ollie, and we all know how clever their simple comedy was!.
The incredible mechanical set, designed by Nigel Hook, is just amazing. It really does have to be seen to be believed as a working set. Trevor states that the set is a "death trap", well that just about sums it up.
Having seen this play before I knew what to expect but even so, I was giggling away prior to the build up of the gags.
If there's any play that is going to raise a belly laugh within you, this is the one.
“The Play That Goes Wrong” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 8 July 2017

Pictures features are not from the current production.

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