The last time I saw The Play That Goes Wrong, presented by the Cornley Drama Society, Winston the dog (an integral prop in the production) had done a runner then, too.
It was the same on Monday evening at the Hull New Theatre, meaning Trevor, the society’s lighting and sound operator (Gabriel Paul), had to ask for our help in finding, or even replacing, the errant mutt.
The stage setting for the society’s production of Murder At Haversham Manor was not quite ready at “curtain up”, so chaos ensued immediately, with a hapless audience member (or was he a stooge?) having to help out.
The setting is a 1920s manor house, home to Charles Haversham (Steven Rostance), on the occasion of his engagement to Florence Colleymore (Aisha Numah).
Unfortunately, Charles is discovered dead as a dodo on a chaise longue before he has the chance to place the ring on Florence’s finger.
Perkins, the faithful family butler (Damien James) seems pretty upset at the tragedy, but flighty Florence and the dead man’s brother, Cecil (Edi De Melo), couldn’t give two hoots. The naughty pair are having an affair. Shock, horror!
Inspector Carter (Colin Burnicle) arrives to try to solve the crime but doesn’t stand a snowball in Hell’s chance. Or is he the killer?
Florence’s brother, Thomas (Kazeem Tosin Amore) and the stage manager, Annie (Beth Lilly) are also a huge part of the shenanigans.
The Cornley thespians are obviously amateurs, and none are more amateurish than the crew who built the stage setting – absolutely everything that can go wrong does, hence the name of the real play on stage that night.
With split-second timing a fireplace falls apart, a painting and a shield fall off the wall; a window falls out of its frame, curtains sag, sparks fly, faces are whacked and – wait for it – a study floor collapses.
Oh, I almost forgot about bodies being tossed out of the window and a man swinging from the dangling stage lighting (or whatever the metal contraption was above the stage).
I kid you not. It all has to be seen to be believed.
The murder story takes second billing to the incredible, and incredulous, destruction happening before our very eyes. The total stage demolition at the end of the play would be scary if it wasn’t so breathtakingly funny.
I have no idea how they all escaped injury. But thank goodness they did. It was us in the well-attended theatre who suffered, with aches and pains through laughing so much.
Whodunnit? To be honest, having sat through over two hours of mayhem, I’m still not sure … I was too busy trying not to miss every disaster.
Besides, it would be horrible of me to give the game away.
Everyone on stage that night deserves a medal for bravery. None of them wore armour, yet they all escaped without a scratch. All were laugh-out-loud amusing in their different ways with voices that carried well, never being drowned out by Rob Falconer’s original music, which always added to the suspense.
The Play That Goes Wrong was right in every way. Bravo!
Running until Saturday, July 23, 2022; 7.30pm nightly with 2.30pm matinees on Wednesday, 20th and Saturday, 23rd. Tickets from £18.50. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 18th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★