Photo: Robert Day

Now a staple on London’s West End, The Play That Goes Wrong is brought to us by the Mischief theatre company. Taking on the role of the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, it tells the story of – and we assume this isn’t a spoiler – a play that goes quite spectacularly wrong. This am dram group are attempting a staging of the invented whodunnit Murder At Haversham Manor, and things start falling apart (figuratively and literally) almost immediately.

In fact, we’re given the impression things aren’t quite going to plan before the show starts. Although not a full-on immersive experience, the fourth wall is regularly broken and there are some elements of audience participation. Before the play formally begins, we see a stage hand chasing around the auditorium looking for a missing dog, while an audience member is brought up on to the stage to hold a piece of collapsing staging in place while it’s being fixed. The director gives us a potted history of the drama society’s rather ropey-sounding previous performances; the sound technician asks us to look out for her missing Duran Duran CD.

It’s all very silly, and sets the tone for what to expect over the next two hours – a daft comedy full of slapstick silliness. Don’t expect to be challenged – there’s no depth to any of these characters and none of the punchlines require much thought, but that’s the point: this is mindless, sit-back-and-relax fun. On the night we attended, we noted lots of tourists and some school groups in the audience – we’d say it’s very much a family-friendly show for the casual theatregoer.

While most of the punchlines are expected – an actor will get injured here, a precarious-looking prop will collapse there – some still caught us off guard. Characters popped up in unexpected places, leaving us scratching our heads as to how they got from A to B without us noticing; actors stood in for others, often with entertaining results. Again it’s far from the most nuanced humour but there are a handful of laugh-out-loud moments.

Whether you enjoy The Play That Goes Wrong will depend on what you’re looking for from a theatre show. Mischief have been doing this for years now, so it’s hardly a fresh or surprising concept. Having said that, sometimes it is nice just to just sit back and watch some mindless fun, and this show ticks that box perfectly.

GAY TIMES gives The Play That Goes Wrong – 3/5

More information can be found here.