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Ian Waller and his son watch a night of error-strewn farce that leaves the audience howling with laughter

There are few productions that get the audience laughing before the play had even started as much as this one did! The audience was still filing into their seats as the cast of The Play That Goes Wrong has us looking out for Winston the missing dog as well as a Best Of Duran Duran CD, while one member of the audience was actually asked up on stage to help fix a piece of set!

In fact, this was just a great way to introduce us all to the mishaps, mistakes and general confusion that runs through the core of this production, all based around an amateur dramatics presentation of Murder at Haversham Manor where any that can go wrong does – in spectacular fashion…

OK, I admit, this type of slapstick theatre isn’t always my cup of tea, but it certainly is for my youngest son and his best mate who had pleaded for tickets as a results of being major league fans of The Goes Wrong Show on TV. So fair enough, let’s give it a go – after all, the sizeable queue outside of the theatre certainly showed how popular the show must be.

So lost dogs and dodgy sets aside, the play was soon underway, well, once the Chris Carter, President of Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, Director of The Murder at Haversham Manor and indeed, producer, designer, costume designer, voice coach and much more, alongside taking the part of Inspector Carter in the production, took to the stage to introduce the play. For me this was one of the funniest parts of the performance, with Carter emotionally thanking us for turning up in such numbers and wistfully relating some of the society’s less successful productions, including – due to a lack of players and resources – Chekhov’s Two Sisters and James and the Peach.

Finally the curtain rises and the murder mystery is under way – and you’ve guessed it, from the start, things immediately start to go terribly wrong. To go into too much detail would be to give the game away, but be ready for a strangely animated corpse that keeps coming back to life, a leading lady who mid-performance needs to be replaced by various other actors, stage hands and indeed a grandfather clock, lost props and failing sets. The general response from large swathes of the audience is hysterical laughter and a clear appreciation of the very physical nature of the comedy.

And indeed throughout the performances are well measured, suitably hammy and often impressively athletic.

But – and this is a quite sizeable but – there were also those in audience, me amongst them, who just didn’t really get it. Yes, it starts well and the cleverly played amateur skills of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are a giggle. The problem is, quite quickly they become somewhat predictable and repetitive, while a little too often the set pieces just go on for too long. What did my son and his friend think? Well, while not at unhappy with the whole thing as me, their general opinion was that it wasn’t as good as the TV show and gave it a not massively generous four out of ten.

And yet around us the laughter continued, alongside a good lengthy rounds of applause, while the final curtain was greeted with a standing ovation.

I guess the take away is that comedy is very much personal taste and if you like very silly, easy to enjoy slapstick silliness, The Play That Goes Wrong could well be for you. And judging by the happy faces as we left, most of the audience loved every minute.

The Play That Goes Wrong plays at the Bristol Hippodrome until 9 July. For more information and to book tickets, click here.