A longstanding presence in the West End has awarded The Play That Goes Wrong the sort of name recognition and momentum usually reserved for the likes of The Mousetrap or Les Misérables.

With this level of influence, it shouldn’t have surprised me that the amenable audience amidst which I was sat came ready to laugh – I just don’t think I was prepared for the force of their laughter.

News Shopper: The Play That Goes Wrong cast.The Play That Goes Wrong cast. (Image: Robert Day)

Mischief Theatre writers have taken the play within a play plot device to the utter extreme in this production, in which Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society perform The Murder at Haversham Manor (the fictional murder of the British upper classes is an unending pleasure to us all).

‘Amateur’ doesn’t even begin to cover the incompetence of the Cornley players, whose misplacement of lines, props and cast members left some of the audience in stitches and others in shock.

My mind made an unfavourable comparison with Michael Frayn’s iconic Noises Off, the farcical mise en abmye of which I am extremely fond.

Frayn’s play is a sort of stylish, comical mess, whereas TPTGW is far more abrupt, much more aggressive in its treatment of the physical bodies and objects on stage. An inordinate amount of time was spent trying to keep the set together, but this fearlessness and boldness – how did no one die?! – is undoubtably a key element in the play’s success.

News Shopper: Mikhail Sen and Tendai Humphrey Sitima in The Play That Goes Wrong at The Duchess Theatre. Mikhail Sen and Tendai Humphrey Sitima in The Play That Goes Wrong at The Duchess Theatre. (Image: Robert Day)

Directing and stage managing such deliberate mayhem is no mean feat, and it’s impossible not to be charmed by the efforts of the cast and crew in pulling it off – even if you don’t find it funny.

Verging on the pantomime, this one might be too much for my taste, although the butler really did tickle my funny bone.

The Play That Goes Wrong is booking until October 2023, you can get your tickets here.

Writers: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields

Director: Mark Bell