First of all, performance aside, it is worth mentioning just what a phenomenal venue The Old Red Lion Theatre is. With an excellent pub downstairs and a manageable, quirky auditorium upstairs, it is well worth a trip there to see any show.
Director Mark Bell’s production of ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ is, without a doubt, the funniest show on in London at the moment. It follows a simple structure: stage a play within a play and then make sure that everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Misplaced props, faulty sets, wrong entrances, cast injuries, and the difficulty of trying to play a corpse whilst people are trampling all over your hand… all eventualities are covered. In most cases the sheer predictability of the performance would lead to tedium and disappointment. Yet not only do the actors carry them off with such deadpan expressions (and I cannot overstate the feat of self-control that must have taken), but the play has been expertly devised so that it shocks the audience with the daring of its stunts, including one particular housing malfunction worthy of Buster Keaton. The lighting and music were (ironically) superb.
Whilst the concept might not be so original, the actors could not be faulted on their performances and there is clearly a great deal of comic potential within the cast. Without wishing to discredit anyone Henry Shields should be given particular congratulations for his portrayal as Chris. His opening speech as ‘The Director’ included a list of past productions in which the cast hadn’t quite fitted requirements, most notably ‘Snow White and the Tall Broad Gentleman’. Shields also had a brilliant turn as ‘The Inspector’ later in the play. Jonathan Sayer is tremendous as the nervous butler and Dave Hearn shows an aptitude for squeezing the most out of the very best parts, using only his best facial expressions. Lotti Maddox and Nancy Wallinger played off very well against each other. Whilst putting in equally strong individual performances, Wallinger embodies each technician’s dream of sharing the lime light with the attention hogging actors. Never have I seen a corpse gain so many laughs as Henry Lewis did as Jonathan, having been left on stage ‘accidentally’ and making a painfully conspicuous exit. Firm and unrelenting in his undeniably funny role as Robert, Greg Tannahill very nearly stole the show and definitely is one to watch.
‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ is a tremendously fun evening and anyone who enjoys a bit of light hearted comedy should make this a must see.
Have a look at Mischief Theatre Company’s website here: www.mischieftheatre.co.uk.