If I didn’t know better, I’d guess that Mischief Theatre couldn’t get the rights to Michael Frayn’s peerless backstage farce ‘Noises Off’, given that the Old Vic’s superb production is still touring after last year’s West End run. Undeterred, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields have penned a theatrical calamity of their own – and it’s like a first draft Frayn might have scrawled on a napkin.
Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s performance of ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’, a sub-Agatha Christie country-house whodunit, is doomed from the off. The stage manager is caught onstage as the house lights fade and there follows a miscellany of missed cues, muddled props and wincing corpses.
What’s really lacking here is patience and credibility. Rather than gradually unravelling, allowing running gags to build and collide, the CPDS’s amateur show just implodes from the off with the fictional performers too basely imbecilic to attempt a rescue.
In fairness, ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ is a pretty decent stab at this sort of thing, with moments of ruddy brilliance. It just has the misfortune to go up against what is indisputably the greatest theatrical farce ever written.