The Play That Goes Wrong
by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields and Jonathan Sayer
Directed by Mark Bell
Photo by Jeff Busby
Roslyn Packer Theatre until April 23
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
If you want to experience one of the most unusual productions seen in Sydney in years, then The Play That Goes Wrong could be for you.
It uses the “play within a play” concept combined with farce.
Presented by an obviously amateur theatre company, The Murder of Haversham Manor is supposed to be so horrible that it’s funny. Unfortunate timing, lack of continuity, bad acting, no stage awareness, low production values and a sound and lighting engineer who is more focused on a Rubics Cube than the cues sets it all up.
You have the murder victim, his fiancée, his brother and a variety of other characters. The servant has the personality of Manuel and the voice of the Spanish Inquisition from Monty Python.
If you look at compelling, entertaining and superbly written farces such as Michael Frayn’s Noises Off, Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors and Fawlty Towers, even though pandemonium prevails, a degree of subtlety from the director and actors is required to pull it off.
The Murder of Haversham Manor is a long string of lines, each of which are immediately followed by predictable and obvious sight gags. It makes The Three Stooges seem understated. Although it’s a farce, The Play That Goes Wrong still manages to be tediously slow moving, which provides a unique experience for that genre.
Looking through the impressively-produced programme for this production, I was surprised to see that some of the performers had professional theatre experience. Yes, it’s supposed to be a mistake-riddled farce in an amateur style, but the skill is in the delivery. It needs to be slick.
The set for The Play That Goes Wrong seems to have been designed to tour in much smaller venues than the Roslyn Packer Theatre because there’s a lot of spare space on that stage. Thank goodness for black velvet drapes. Partly because of this, if you’ve already booked, and your seats are in the dress circle, opera glasses will not be enough; high-powered binoculars will be barely sufficient.
It felt like someone had thrown a lot of money at The Outer Mt Druitt West Amateur Theatrical and Light Opera Society to produce The Play That Goes Wrong, and there was a great of hype surrounding it before the opening night. I wish it well.