SOMETIMES IT TAKES a brilliantly constructed and superbly rendered farce to make you not only crack a smile but guffaw from the belly in a way that gets the endorphins flowing. This is the kind of thing you can expect from the current production of The Play that Goes Wrong, directed by Alan Committie. And indeed, something has to be said for a farce achieved with a level of slapstick magnificence that takes the genre of physical humour to a new level. The Play that Goes Wrong does all of that and more.
But the first thing you have to dispossess yourself of is the plot. Because that’s not what this play is about. Rather it’s the mechanics of making a piece of theatre that is caught hilariously under this loupe. Annie (Sive Gubangxa) the stage hand with a leading lady yen, and Trevor (Louis Viljoen), the Duran-Duran loving sound guy who gets more than he bargained for, set the tone in this take on a am-dram stage production of a Victorian-evocative murder mystery. It is opening night. Chris (Russel Savadier) is the proud director. He also performs Inspector Carter.
And armed with collective senses of comic timing, things that on a logical level make you feel uncomfortable and a formal script and plot, the characters, also including Denis (Roberto Pombo) who plays Perkins the butler, who’s written the more challenging words on his hand; Max (Craig Jackson) who is starstruck by the audience every time he sees it; and Jonathan (Daniel Janks) who plays the hapless Charles Haversham, the body at the get-go.
But there’s not just one death, and mixed with improvisation and naked panic, the wrong props in the right place and the right props in the wrong place, mixed with a spot of corrosive inflammable fluid and an invisible dog. Not to sidestep Robert (Antony Coleman) and his death sequence of the character Thomas Colleymoore, which will have you in stitches.
Not to forget the leading lady herself, Florence Colleymoore. She’s played by Nicole Franco in the role of Sandra. And she’s the source of sexy intrigue, hysterical interregna and other things that go bump in the night, particularly when she comes face to face with Annie who’s determined to usurp this role, higgledy-piggledy script in hand.
In short, it’s a cast that harmonises in the humour stakes admirably. But the team responsible for the set is also up there on the excellence list: indeed the set should be acknowledged as one of the cast for all the tricks and glitches, unexpected surprises and things that you will audibly gasp about, when they happen.
This farce is entertainment at its utter best: it’s a real tonic from start to finish and it’ll make you remember what distinguished producer Pieter Toerien for, in this theatre industry, years ago, but it is also the finest way to end this year, theatrically.
- The Play that Goes Wrong is written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields and directed by Alan Committie. Featuring creative input by Scene Visual Productions and Verita Brand (set co-ordination and building), Malcolm Terrey (costume co-ordination) and Bronwyn Leigh Gottwald (props co-ordinator), it is performed by Antony Coleman, Nicole Franco, Sive Gubangxa, Craig Jackson, Daniel Janks, Roberto Pombo, Russel Savadier and Louis Viljoen at the Pieter Toerien Theatre, Montecasino theatre complex in Fourways, until January 6.