The play that goes so wrong that it’s right

The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society present The Murder at Haversham Manor. It goes wrong. Very wrong. So wrong that it’s totally right.

The Play That Goes Wrong. Luke Joslin, George Kemp, Nick Simpson Deeks, James Marlowe
The Play That Goes Wrong. Luke Joslin, George Kemp, Nick Simpson Deeks, James Marlowe

The Play That Goes Wrong by Mischief Theatre was first seen in 2012 in a 60-seat theatre. With a new second act, it went to the Edinburgh Fringe and has now been swimming through tears of laughter for three years in London, where it also won a 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. The Australian production opened in Melbourne on Friday and the Broadway production starts previewing in early March.

An inept local drama society have got enough cash – thanks to one of the actors (there are bonus giggles in the program) – to stage a 1920’s murder mystery. Under the serious direction of Chris Bean (Nick Simpson-Deeks), who also plays the lead detective, lines have been (mostly) learnt and they’re ready to open. If only the stage manager could find his Duran Duran box set and the crew could keep the set to stay together.

From the wobbly set to pratfalls, malapropisms, slapstick and every other joke in the book – and then some – the pace doesn’t speed up so much as deliberately run you down, back up and do it all again. What begins with polite giggles and small gags develops into an insanity that breaks the most serious of reviewers as it celebrates every memory of atrocious theatre.

While Darcy Brown’s dead body almost steals the show, Simpson-Deeks sets the tone as the unflappable actor, who loves his company and every show they have done – oh, to have seen CAT. The Australian cast (including Adam Dunn, Luke Joslin, George Kemp, Brooke Satchwell and Tammy Welle) are joined by James Marlowe from Mischief Theatre and are all so gloriously bad that they are wonderful.

My only complaint is that I wasn’t bribed like some other reviewers.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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