Thanks to Wales Millennium Centre for providing us with complimentary review tickets for The Play That Goes Wrong
“Get ready to laugh,” says my 10 year old as we enter the auditorium of the Donald Gordon Theatre at Wales Millennium Centre. And laugh we did, for two solid hours. From little chuckles to big loud belly laughs, The Play That Goes Wrong, which opened its six-day run in Cardiff last night, is brilliantly funny from start to finish, and a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable performance.
As its name suggests, The Play That Goes Wrong is a play about a play where everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.
The performance starts so unassumingly and without fanfare, as we meet the tech crew and performers from the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, even as the audience are still taking to the seats. It’s clear the mishaps are happening even before the show begins as they scour the auditorium looking for a lost dog, while a stagehand tries to fix the set with just minutes to go until the curtain rises on their amateur production of 1920s murder mystery, The Murder at Haversham Manor.
As their play begins, it’s one theatrical disaster after another. Scenery doesn’t work as it’s supposed to; the tech team mess up music and light queues; actors forget lines and mispronounce words; props aren’t where they are supposed to be; parts of the set fall down; doors open into performers’ faces; one of the stars ends up out cold. But still the intrepid performers continue delivering their lines and adapting to the chaos around them, determined that, as the old adage goes, the show must go on.
Created by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields of Mischief Theatre, The Play That Goes Wrong has been running since 2012, in the West End since 2014, Broadway since 2017, and has been on five UK tours, winning all kinds of awards in the process. Its success has lead Mischief to create other similar productions, including Peter Pan Goes Wrong, which we saw when it came to Cardiff in 2019, and a TV series The Goes Wrong Show, which we watched and loved during lockdown.
Yes, it’s a tried and tested format, and we knew what to expect, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. The whole thing is so expertly put together and although it’s ridiculous it manages to refrain from being too over the top.
For me, this comes down to the entire cast, who have brilliant comedic timing and impressively manage to deliver the whole thing without so much as a misplaced smirk, despite the auditorium being filled with laughter.
Perhaps the cleverest thing about The Play That Goes Wrong is the technical wizardry of the (real) backstage crew. For the show to succeed everything has to go impeccably right. One can only imagine how much planning and coordinating must go into the production to ensure things fall off walls at exactly the right moment, that doors stick or fly open only when needed, that when scenery collapses the cast are stood in exactly the right place. It’s all so expertly choreographed that it gives you a whole new level of admiration for all the shows you see where nothing goes wrong.
With an age guidance of 8+ this is brilliant entertainment for adults and older children alike. We couldn’t stop laughing the entire time, and both left the theatre feeling so uplifted and happy.
In the words of my 10 year old, The Play That Goes Wrong is “hilariously hilarious” and “so brilliant”. “Can we see it again?”
The Play That Goes Wrong is at Wales Millennium Centre as part of its UK tour until Saturday 18 June. There are still tickets still available for all performances, with prices starting from £15.50. Age guidance 8+. See the Wales Millennium Centre website for more information.
If you fancy a theatre trip with your family, see my blog post 45 family-friendly theatre shows in and around Cardiff for summer 2022 and beyond