The programme for The Play That Goes Wrong informs us that the action takes place on opening night of the Northriding Polytechnic Drama Society’s production of the murder mystery play “Murder at Haversham Manor”.
The set, built by Verita Brand, is a typical box set and the stage is crawling with stage hands and behind the scenes workers as the auditorium goes live. There is no doubt that we are seeing the professional theatre maker’s worst nightmare.
Directed by Alan Committie, an experienced comic actor, the ensemble comprising Sive Gubangxa (stage hand Annie), Louis Viljoen (sound man Trevor), Russel Savadier (Chris who plays Inspector Carter) , Daniel Janks (Jonathan who plays Charles Haversham), Antony Coleman (Robert who plays Thomas Colleymore), Roberto Pombo (Denis who plays Perkins), Craig Jackson (Max who plays Cecil Haversham and Arthur, the gardener) and Nicole Franco (Sandra who plays Florence Colleymore) is a marvellous one. It is more difficult to hold a cast of individuals together when one is aiming at being hilariously bad than when one is aiming at being seriously good, but Committie manages this feat.
The charm of the play lies in the marginal plausibility of dreadful that every parent of school children has seen in school plays, projected onto the awfulness of some “am dram” (amateur dramatics) that one may have been coerced into watching over the years.
The genre here is farce (and a play within a play that makes the Shakespearean academic prototype in Midsummer Night’s Dream seem perfectly reasonable) and it comes as a shock to me to realise that it was a regular part of my theatre diet nearly fifty years ago. One sees little of it now, but during the silly season of December and January, the silliness is delightful and I found myself laughing delightedly at stuff which would probably irritate me in the solemnity of a Gauteng winter.
Of course, in the case of any farce, much of the real humour is in the visual component (skilfully acted out by the cast), rather than in the script itself (by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields) and at one point it literally brings the house down.
The Play That Goes Wrong is perfect entertainment for the Christmas/New Year/pre back to school and work season for everyone.
It is on at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre. There is full disabled access to this theatre and one can take one’s drinks in.
Highlights of the 2019 season include Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, now celebrating 65 years on the boards in London. It will be its second run here in South Africa and it promises to be delightful. Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods will also be performed here next year. Every second year over the Christmas season there is an ice show performed by the Imperial Ice Stars, and in 2019, the production will be Peter Pan on Ice, a storyline as much suited for boys as for girls.