A NIGHT OF SLAPSTICK AND PERFECT TIMING

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On Saturday evening we took the train up to London. We had decided not to try to drive in as it was also the day of the Pride march and we expected London might be difficult to get around. London was buzzing. Our taxi driver dropped us off vaguely in the area we had requested as things were moving very slowly.

We were off to see The Play that Goes Wrong at the Duchess Theatre by The Mischief Theatre and my hopes were high having been recommended it as a suitable and indeed enjoyable play for all of us by some friends who saw it recently.  All of us being myself, my husband and our 13 yr old son.

This is a play within a play. The Comley Polytechnic Drama Society are putting on a whodunnit- ‘Murder at Haversham Manor’  and everything that can go wrong does with hilarious results. The overacting of the cast is fabulous. I’m surprised that they still have voices left at the end of the production. ‘Shouty’ might be one word to describe the hammy acting. The set is a masterpiece. You know from the moment the curtain is raised that mayhem will ensue. I was clocking the chandelier, the mezzanine study, the grandfather clock. All had great potential to be involved in the chaos and slapstick that was to follow and I wasn’t disappointed. The choreography was wonderful and thankfully perfect as walls descended and actors remained in tact.

Do get there early as the fun starts well before the curtain goes up and before the published start time of the play. Indeed there were only about 20 of us in the stalls when things started to unfold. Also be warned that if you are sitting in the stalls there is a risk you will end up on stage to help a couple of hapless stagehands who are trying to repair faulty props. All great fun if it isn’t you!

The Duchess Theatre is a delightful little gem with only 495 seats and that adds to the feeling that you may be watching an amateur dramatic performance, but nothing could really be further from the truth. The timing, physicality and precision that is needed to deliver this play is amazing. Indeed sitting near the front of the stalls I was very glad that sliding furniture was deftly grabbed by an experienced ankle to prevent it launching itself onto the audience.

The performances were all wonderful. I particularly enjoyed David Hearn’s performance as Max Bennett. He reminded me of all those primary school nativity plays where the children can’t help but acknowledge the audience. His character oozes childish appreciation every time the audience laughs at his antics.
The audience loved every minute of it. It is one of those evenings when your sides might split or your jaw may hurt from all the laughter. There’s a particularly painful section in the second act where the actors get caught in a vortex of script repetition many times. Everyone is relieved when it finally comes to an end and you can catch your breath again.

We were seated towards the front of the stalls on the end of a row. Big mistake! It seems an enduring law of nature that the people who buy tickets for the middle seats always arrive last. I was delighted as the lights went down that the three seats next to me remained empty. My mind flew back the the very clear warning on the tickets that latecomers would not be admitted. Apparently they didn’t really mean that! Several minutes into the performance we were jumping to our feet yet again to allow the latecomers to take their seats. They then proceeded to talk through much of the first act. Apparently British slapstick was too difficult for one of the group to follow and another member felt the need to explain everything. These were people for whom English was their first language, although the UK was probably not their home. That’s all I’m saying. When they weren’t trying to decipher the complexities of what was happening on the stage they were reading their text messages!

Anyway by the second act they seemed to have settled down a little. It might have been due to my huffing a bit but who knows?

Do go and see ‘The Play that Goes Wrong’ if you want an evening of fun and laughter. It won the Olivier Award 2015 for the Best New Comedy so they must be doing something right and the run has been extended into 2016 so plenty of opportunity. If you do book tickets in the middle of a row please do the decent thing and turn up early. No idea whodunit by the way!

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