THE latest production of The Play that Goes Wrong starts its 29 venue tour at Bath with a sell-out week to open the 2017 season. Its reputation was enhanced by the televising of Peter Pan Goes Wrong (by the same team) over Christmas.
Amateur theatricals provide a seemingly endless source of material for the professionals – think The Art of Coarse Acting, Noises Off, The Farndales …. The tradition is to extend the stage jokes into the programme notes. Kenny Wax’s team move into the auditorium too, for several minutes before what is loosely described as “curtain up” and during the interval. No fourth wall here!
We are in the realm of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, and their chosen show is Murder at Haversham Manor, the first production for which they have summoned the requisite number of actors, so excitement is palpable for the opening night, introduced by director Chris Bean, who also plays the detective in the murder mystery.
This is an ensemble show, in which every member of the cast, onstage sound and lighting man Trevor and everyone backstage relies on point-perfect timing and the brilliantly collapsible set takes a starring role. There are running jokes, set-piece routines and marvellously hammy performances as the story of two brothers, a brother and sister, a faithful retainer and of course the detective unfold amid collisions, casualties and confusions.
If the legacy of 2016 was doom and depression, you can lift your spirits with this blithe battiness – but not at Bath, where only returns are available.
The tour also visits Poole’s Lighthouse from 20th to 25th February, Salisbury Playhouse from 27th February to 4th March, the Northcott in Exeter from 15th to 20th May, Southampton Mayflower from 10th to 15th July and the Theatre Royal in Plymouth from 24th to 29th May, before its final week at Canterbury until 5th August.