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  • Henry Longstaff

The Play That Goes Wrong - Duchess Theatre

A new cast join the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society

The cast of the play that goes wrong look on in horror as Jonathan trips


Despite the name, something is going very right over at the Duchess Theatre. Whilst many were down the road rightly celebrating the life of Stephen Sondheim, a separate audience was shuffling into a different theatre to witness the new cast of the West End’s longest-running comedy.

Mischief Theatre, through their Goes Wrong plays and TV shows, has managed to cement themselves as a household name with a global fanbase and after sitting down to watch their original production, once again, it is not difficult to see why. The Play That Goes Wrong demonstrates the relentless determination, grit and resilience most of us have to muster daily, albeit in a more than farcical manner. For this reason, the play is one of the most relatable and accessible pieces of theatre out there, each of us able to recognise ourselves amongst the eclectic and often befuddled characters. The company has managed to do all of this whilst delivering quips, laughs and absurdity at a relentless pace.

Having seen the production before I was ready for the chaos that was about to ensue and was not left disappointed. The new cast has, quite literally, thrown themselves headfirst into the world of Cornley Polytechnic and it was wonderful to see them make their mark on this production. Topically gags and new, delightful characterisations are scattered throughout the play, with each cast member giving it all to make sure that there are no wasted beats throughout the two-hour runtime.

Mikhail Sen leads the company as Chris, the resolute and desperate director of the misfit company and is brilliant in his desperation to keep the play moving despite the pandemonium happening around him - often hindered by the woeful and charming Dennis performed exquisitely by Jaouhar Ben Ayed. Assh Blackwood and Anya De Villiers battle it out as the timid yet stubborn Annie and leading lady Sandra respectively, with near-perfect physical comedic timing. Also on point with physical comedy is Oliver Mott whose planking shuffle knows no bounds. Scott Hunter adds to the charm of the play as newcomer Max, the delight and charisma they bring to the role is nothing short of infectious. Wrapping up the cast we have Stuart Vincent (understudy) as the booming Robert and Tomisin Ajani as the indifferent technician Trevor, each of whom adds wonderfully to the bubbling chemistry on stage.

Nigel Hook’s Tony-winning set remains unchanged as does the rest of the creative design but the new cast have still made it their own. It was particularly lovely to see so many of the original company in the audience, backing and cheering the new cohort. When support for cast and crew has been lacking from some production companies lately this was a nice show of loyalty.

The Play That Goes Wrong has survived for so long because of its undeniable ability to make audiences laugh. The past few years have been extremely testing and that looks unlikely to change anytime soon so work like this has become even more important. It allows us to escape our worries for a few hours and simply have a good time. Yes, theatre can challenge us, bring us to tears and helps us view the world from another perspective but sometimes all we want is to have a humorous and entertaining night out and this is what Mischief do best and long may it continue.

Currently booking until 2nd April 2023

Photos: Robert Day

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