The Play That Goes Wrong is at The King’s Theatre Edinburgh this week (Tue 02 Nov to Sun 07 Nov) and as usual this now classic comedy about a chaotic amateur dramatic company - The Cornley Drama Society - and its many on-stage mishaps was once again filling the theatre with an audience that just never seemed to stop laughing from start to finish of this production.
Normally this sort of on stage comedy/farce is not that high on my theatrical “watch list” as you have to have both an on-stage and an off-stage team that are very good and perfectly timed together. Few companies manage this combination well, but Mischief Theatre is an exception to this rule, and here in The Play That Goes Wrong (and other comedy productions from the company), they prove that they are the modern masters of this elusive on-stage art.
If you are reading this revue and not sure what this show is about, then imagine a 1920s on-stage murder-mystery where everything that can go wrong with the script and the props goes wrong not once or twice, but every few minutes. This show is a never-ending series of both scripted and visual comedy and to pull this show off on stage our cast need to know exactly where they are every moment of this production to ensure that they are in exactly the right spot for every misfiring prop, and there is no room for mistakes in timing here. This show really is a modern tribute to those old silent movie masters of this art, and thoughts of those old Harold Lloyd films always come to mind whenever I watch this show.
Normally I will list some onstage and off-stage creatives in a review, but here I am not doing that because there is no one person to select here as, for a show like this to work, every member of the Mischief Theatre Company team, seen and unseen, has to be doing their job and everyone is doing that very well here. The timing between prop department and the comedy timing between our on-stage cast is perfect here and there are also some lovely interactions with the audience which look ad-libbed, but of course are all part of a well written and well timed script.
The idea of an onstage play within a play happening is of course not a new concept (Shakespeare used this device often too), but Mischief Theatre do it so well and with a great attention to detail that carries over to the show programme book having a programme within a programme for The Cornley Drama Society within its pages. Perhaps this attention to detail, and of course the fact that it is simply highly entertaining theatrical comedy, are a few of the reasons that The Play That Goes Wrong has over the years become a world-wide stage show success.
One word of warning if you are going folks. Try to get to your seat 10 minutes or so before the official show opening time. The amateur dramatic company take to the stage on time, but their “stage-crew” are setting things up for them a little earlier and some of the running jokes throughout this production start with them.
Review by Tom King (c) 2021
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