The Play That Goes Wrong

The Play That Goes Wrong - photo by Jeff BusbyThere has been a murder at Haversham Manor. Detective Carter promptly arrives to solve the mystery of who was responsible for Charles Haversham’s untimely death in this classic murder mystery, inspired by works such as Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap and performed by the struggling Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society.

And from even before this production called The Murder at Haversham Manor begins, things start to go wrong. But that is the point. The Play That Goes Wrong is a light-hearted and family friendly ‘play within a play’ where all manner of disasters befalls the murder mystery production.

The laughter started before the show began, with the Haversham Director Chris Bean (Nick Simpson-Deeks), who also plays the lead as the Inspector, roaming the crowd offering bribes to reviewers, other patrons being ushered into incorrect (and much better) seats, humorous last minute stage repairs, a missing dog and Duran Duran box set, and a hilarious list of other (failed) productions the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society have been involved in. If you miss the list, that’s ok, just try to read the back of each stage crew’s shirt.

Bringing in superb acting talent, Brit James Marlowe as Max, the Australian cast have done a splendid job bringing this West End hit show to life. I am sure everyone who sees this show has their favourite characters, with mine being Jonathan (Darcy Brown) who played the corpse Charles Haversham, who was continually caught out on the set doing not-so-dead things, and the nervous Dennis (George Kemp) who could not remember his lines as the butler Perkins.

Not intending to single out any particular performers, the entire ensemble that included Brooke Satchwell (Sandra), Adam Dunn (Trevor), Luke Joslin (Robert), Tammy Well (Annie), Matthew Whitty (Lincoln) and the understudies played by Francine Cain and Jordan Prosser, all perform as a united force. Together this talented group could certainly show other Melbourne performances how to perform slapstick, and what a farce as a genre is truly about.

This being said, the true stars of the show were those who designed and built the set and worked behind the scenes during the performance to ensure each ‘disaster’ went off as planned. Director Sean Turner has turned Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields’ work into a delightful reality for the Australian premiere at the Comedy Theatre Melbourne.

Utilising a brilliant set design by Nigel Hook that was in turn complemented by the lighting (Jason Bovaird) and costuming (Roberto Surace), the look and feel was there of a classic period murder mystery, a charismatic and sophisticated 1920’s charm, that carried itself through the entire performance.

There really is not much to fault this production as it is incredibly difficult to review a show that promises things will go wrong. Just walk in with no expectations and you will find that things will go wrong brilliantly, with perfect timing with both humour and with the errors.

While this production may not be destined to become the greatest theatre productions of all time, it’s fun simplicity is why The Play that goes Wrong has been such a big success overseas, and hopefully will see that same success here in Australia.

The Play That Goes Wrong 
Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 24 February 2017 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 26 March 2017

Following the Melbourne season, The Play That Goes Wrong will be presented in Adelaide (from 28 March), Sydney (from 5 April), Canberra (from 25 April), Brisbane (from 4 May) and Perth (from 31 May). For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Luke Joslin, Adam Dunn, Tammy Weller, Darcy Brown and Brooke Satchwell feature The Play That Goes Wrong – photo by Jeff Busby

Review: Jimmy Twin