dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Mayhem at the Murder of Haversham Manor
Mischief Theatre Company's comedy The Play That Goes Wrong returns to the Midlands with a bang, and a bang and another bang. In fact, when the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society stage 'Murder at Haversham Manor', there are collapsing stage sets, missed cues, forgotten lines, trips, falls, fights - and just about anything else which could go wrong.
The show at Belgrade Theatre Coventry doesn't miss a trick, with slapstick comedy from its first scenes. From the moment the mantelpiece collapses, the audience just knows the 'Murder at Haversham Manor' will be a disaster. Directed by Sean Turner, the gags just keep coming, one following the other in a much more orchestrated manner than the Cornley Society could ever manage.
Tom Bulpett takes the role of Chris, president of the society and director of the show but also the police inspector called upon to investigate the murder of Charles Haversham. As the performance unravels, Chris attempts to keep it on track – although even he admits to being surprised the audience has returned for the second act.
Then there is Tom Babbage's Max, an actor who suddenly realises he adores the limelight and plays to the crowd, while Edward Howells is Dennis, who can't remember some of the long words, so writes them on his hand and then proceeds to mispronounce them.
April Hughes plays Sandra, the over-acting female lead in the show, but when she is accidentally knocked out, she is replaced by stage manager Annie played by Laura Kirman - only for the two women to end up fighting to stay on stage.
It is all very silly and that's the point – The Play That Goes Wrong follows in the tradition of the slapstick greats in knowing that it's the daftest jokes which receive the largest laughs. Ultimately 'Murder at Haversham Manor' is a catastrophe but the cast remain positive despite all the mishaps and it is their heart-warming attempts to convince the audience it will be all right on the night, which ensures the audience is willing them to succeed.
The Play That Goes Wrong plays Belgrade Theatre Coventry until September 18.