The Play That Goes Wrong is a ludicrous, raucous & hilarious misadventure

There’s some drama afoot around the doors of the ASB Waterfront Theatre; there’s a search on for a missing dog and we’re all to keep an eye out. This is how you get immersed into the carousel of chaos that is The Play That Goes Wrong – even before curtain up.

Once things kick off, we are introduced to Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society by director, designer, choreographer, actor – let’s just say he wears many hats – Chris Bean. The company are about to present The Murder at Haversham Manor. Apparently, their productions don’t always go to plan so fingers crossed for this one! The story is simple enough; there’s been a murder and Inspector Carter locks the remaining occupants of the Manor inside so he can interview and deduct who dun it. This should be a quaint murder mystery, however, over the next few hours what unfolds is a butterfly effect of the most hilarious of proportions. Cast members fluff lines, props are thrown, caught or generally mismanaged, set pieces collapse, and there’s more than one concussion I’m sure. But, the show must go on…right?

Patrick Warner plays Chris Bean, who plays Inspector Carter in the play (you still with me). His Basil Fawlty worthy explosions are hysterical while depicting his desperation, dedication and commitment to his art is second to none. Alastair Kirton, who plays Max Bennett, takes on a few roles in the play and he does so with such entertaining and exaggerated mannerisms that enable him to take delight in the audience’s laughter and applause. A star is born.

The wonderful Edward Judge, who’s character Robert, bless him, is going to deliver his lines as Charles Haversham no matter what. He’s a committed thesp the likes of which Uncle Monty (see Withnail & I) would be proud of. His physical dexterity within his performance is tested to the limit in a particularly precarious scene which has the crowd whooping and gasping in equal measure. The Manor’s Butler, Perkins, comical inability to pronounce certain words in the script are a regular interval of playground goofiness. Edward Howells is the hapless actor, Denis, who just wants to do a good job but obviously, nerves get the better of him. And, then there’s poor old Jonathan Harris, who is tasked with playing the corpse of Charles Haversham. He really gives his all when trying to lend a hand as things fall apart while ‘seamlessly’ not breaking character. Such a fun and cheeky performance from Jason Callender.

Fighting for the part of leading lady, Florence Colleymoore, are Sandra Wilkinson and stage manager Annie Twilloil (played by Meg Mortell and Katie Bernstein). An unfortunate accident sees Sandra indisposed meaning Annie must take the limelight and she likes it, she likes it a lot and she is NOT going to share! This facilitates one of the funniest conflicts in the play with an epically violent finale.

The one character who’s more of a maverick is tech guy Trevor, played by Graeme Rooney. He’s cheeky and manages to steal some good laughs away from the actors, even while sitting up in his booth for most of the performance.

If you’re allergic to slapstick this play may just be the tonic that will cure you. It’s excellently choreographed from the smallest of slip-ups to huge devastations. The cast delivers the best choreography to a manifold of mishaps I’ve ever seen.

Embrace your silly side and check out The Play That Goes Wrong as it’s a ludicrous, raucous & hilarious misadventure where hilarity and calamity collide in the most perfect way.

The Play That Goes Wrong is on at Auckland’s ASB Waterfront Theatre until 22 October.

Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar.