Things to laugh about are hard to come by right now (apart from that big baby balloon maybe) so The Play The Goes Wrong has come at the right time.
Celebrating that very British tradition of slapstick, it’s the story of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society putting on an Agatha Christie-esque production, The Murder at Haversham Manor.
As I walked to my seat in the stalls on press night, I could already hear laughter. I picked up the pace and discovered the on-stage action had already begun with a hapless stage manager battling to stop a mantlepiece falling apart. It’s rare that an audience gets to laugh before the curtain has even gone up!
As I settled in my seat, the theatregoer next to me added to the farcical atmosphere. She was struggling (very loudly) to open a packet of mini-chocolate oranges. I did wonder if she was part of the show and the spotlight would suddenly shine on me.
The play then kicked off as first time director Chris Bean proudly proclaimed that it’s the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s most ambitious production yet following low budget classics like James, where’s your peach? and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat staged by a colour blind producer.
What then followed was an explosion of trips, collapsing floors, stuck doors and badly timed sound effects as the cast, often literally, threw themselves into the story.
Of course it’s stupid but it’s meant to be. Making staged mistakes look like real mistakes is hard. But the team behind Mischief Theatre are masters of farce.
What began in a fringe theatre above a London pub is now a play performed in the heady heights of the West End and Broadway as well as the recipient of numerous awards including an Olivier for best new comedy.
The Play That Goes Wrong is unsurprisingly compared to Noises Off and although it’s not quite as sophisticated as Michael Frayn’s modern classic, the Bristol Hippodrome audience was roaring with laughter and the cast got a well-deserved standing ovation from pretty much the entire stalls.
I was one of many still chuckling as we left the auditorium and boy, do we need a laugh right now!
As for those chocolate oranges, well yes, she did finally open the bag but no, I wasn’t offered one.