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Review: The Play That Goes Wrong at the Birmingham Hippodrome
Culture editor Olivia Boyce reviews the light-hearted and hilarious show 'The Play That Goes Wrong' at the Birmingham Hippodrome.
This is a week of marvelous mayhem and mishap on stage at Birmingham Hippodrome, as ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’, otherwise known as the smash hit The Play That Goes Wrong, stops off on its UK tour. Audiences witness the biggest performance ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ have ever put on, and it proves to be a lighthearted, hilarious production from start to finish, more than worthy of its acclaim.
Even before the first act begins, it is clear this is going to be one very humorous performance, with a poor audience member duped into propping up parts of the somewhat unruly set as the Hippodrome audience look on in amusement. It sets the tone for the whole evening, and as the play begins on stage, it becomes clear that, true to the name, things really will be going more than a little wrong for the eclectic cast of characters. From a set that seems almost out to get the performers, to mixed up lines, character swaps, a few bouts of unconsciousness and a smattering of Duran Duran, it is a mix that leaves the audience in almost constant peals of laughter.
“'a lighthearted, hilarious production from start to finish, more than worthy of its acclaim...'
The cast is excellent, all bringing perfect comic timing and more than a few knowing glances for the audience, playing amateur actors attempting to bring to life the characters they portray on stage. Gabriel Paul and Catherine Dryden have the audience laughing even before the curtain rises, playing two members of the show’s tech crew, Trevor and Annie, and this continues into the show itself, as they unwillingly get involved in a great many of the antics on stage.
Liam Horrigan was perfect as Chris Bean, the exasperated ‘director’ who plays Inspector Carter within the Murder Mystery play. His pre-act speeches, where he reminds us of previous Cornley Polytechnic productions including ‘Cat’, are masterfully delivered, and an interaction with an audience member over a ledger devolves into a brilliant moment of (assumedly) improvisation that shows the skill this cast possess. Steven Rostance is hilarious as Jonathan, who plays the victim Charles Haversham, with a recurring early entrance that get funnier each time and lead to a big cheer when it finally times out perfectly.
Kazeem Tosin Amore’s Robert, playing Thomas Collymore in the play, has excellent timing which he matches with impressive physical comedy and many a frustrated line delivery to great effect. Bobby Hirston, playing up his character Max’s delight at being on stage, is delightful as a very dramatic Cecil Haversham, and Benjamin McMahon as Dennis, playing the somewhat bumbling housekeeper Perkins, is hilarious in his very evident confusion at the goings on around him. Elena Valentine plays Florence in a brilliant diva-like performance, finding herself vying for her place on stage with Catherine Dryden's Annie, leading to some jaw-dropping moments as they fight to play the character.
“'The cast is excellent, all bringing perfect comic timing and more than a few knowing glances for the audience...'
The set itself is undoubtedly a highlight, a character in its own right throughout the show. Reminiscent of that from an Agatha Christie play, it delights as it begins to fall apart, sometimes dramatically so, to absolutely hilarious effect. Set Designer Nigel Hook has done a wonderful job of providing an adaptable set with as much comic potential as the script and cast, and the Tony Award he received for the Broadway production is most definitely deserved.
The Play That Goes Wrong does everything right, leaving audiences with a night of comedic performance and farcical brilliance to remember. Catch it at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 31st of March – it is one you will not want to miss.
More information on The Play That Goes Wrong can be found here.
(Correction: Liam Horrigan performed Chris Bean this week, rather than Jake Curran as previously identified)