West End Review: The Play That Goes Wrong

For my playwriting class this semester, we're meant to write a 60-90 minute play as our final project. As I am a theatre person with a strong passion for the play-within-a-play format (I've been in two of these type of shows), I decided that I would tackle this for my own writing. My professor suggested two plays for me to see before I started. One being "Shakespeare in Love" (which I will review soon), and "The Play That Goes Wrong." Having a full, free day last Thursday, I decided to go see both in one day and fill my 24-hours with as much theatre as possible. "Noises Off" was my favorite play-within-a-play I had seen, up until seeing this show. "The Play That Goes Wrong" was everything I needed from a outing to the theatre. Coming from a theatre background, having played every part, from actress on stage, to backstage crew, to spotlight operator, to front-of-house staff, I've been fully engrossed in any and everything that can go wrong in a performance. It was amazing to be able to sit back as an audience member and see everything go wrong in such a perfectly, practiced way. Without giving too much away, you can assume from the title of the show that what you'll be seeing will be an absolute disaster. Every performer has the "actors nightmare" before, during and after a show, and with this play, you get to see everything you dream about happening in two hours, and it's surprisingly refreshing. When it's not happening to you, and rather someone else, it's hilarious! I was laughing, out loud, the entire show. It's hard for me to actually laugh out loud for anything. Yes, I may chuckle to myself when I find something funny, but it takes a lot for me to open my mouth and exude a verbal noise of enjoyment, and with each moment in this performance, I was roaring. When you're performing a play where you're supposed to be a "bad actor," you actually have to be a very good actor to be able to pull it off. The cast of this show are obviously very good actors, who can pull off "bad" very convincingly, without going overboard. It takes perfect comic timing to do what they do, so I can tell they're all very trained in the art of farce to have pulled this off so well. The lines alone must've taken a lot of rehearsal to perfect, because with some of the gags, including mispronunciation and lines being out of order, it takes a lot of skill to have done that, and I was very impressed. And of course, the set (and the invisible people backstage) were the true stars of the show. For everything to "go wrong," there has to be everything backstage going right. From objects falling off the wall, to items being misplaced and set pieces breaking, this well-rehearsed cast must've had many run throughs with the set and crew to make sure the timing was down perfectly. In fact, if something did go wrong, it would be impossible to tell, since everything is going wrong anyways. And that's what I really loved about this show is that because everything goes wrong the entire time, you're never bored wondering if something exciting is going to happen, because you don't have to wait a moment for it to. This show gave me a lot of inspiration for my own work, and I will be drawing a lot from it (not plagiarizing of course), but using the themes and possibly some of the things that go wrong, to give my piece some life. "The Play That Goes Wrong" is playing at the Duchess Theatre and its run just got extended, so there's plenty of time to see it, which is great for me, because I really want to go again. I knew I was in love with it before it even started, because the pre-show activity from the actors included trying to fix a door that just won't shut properly, and that hit a soft spot in my heart, after using a door much like it in my acting classes. It never stayed shut or sometimes didn't even open properly, causing a lot of stress in class scene showings, which is one of those many things that can go wrong in the theatre.