The Play That Goes Wrong

  • Theatre
  • Drama
2 Love It
© Alastair Muir

'The Play That Goes Wrong'

© Alastair Muir

'The Play That Goes Wrong'

© Alastair Muir

'The Play That Goes Wrong'

© Alastair Muir

'The Play That Goes Wrong'

© Alastair Muir

'The Play That Goes Wrong'

Duchess Theatre , Covent Garden Until Sunday September 11 2016
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The West End transfer of this farce where a play within a play painfully into chaos.

This new comedy has, of course, actually done everything right. Produced by young LAMDA graduates Mischief Theatre, the show has had successful runs at the Trafalgar Studios, and in Edinburgh; this is its first airing in its shiny new Covent Garden home. Amid all the chatter about the overbearing West End dominance of jukebox musicals and film spin-offs, it’s cheering to see a dynamic young company land slap-bang in the middle of Theatreland.

The show is a farcical play-within-a-play. Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are mounting a production of a hoary old sub-‘Mousetrap’ mystery called ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’. From the first moment, in which a hapless stage manager attempts to secure a collapsing mantelpiece, we suspect that things are not going to go to plan. And that, indeed, is the case, as the production shudders painfully into chaos, taking in everything from dropped lines to disintegrating sets, intra-cast fighting, technical malfunctions of the highest order, and an unexpectedly resuscitated corpse.

The show sits in a fine tradition of British slapstick, and of plays about theatrical blunders: its debt to Michael Frayn’s hilarious ‘Noises Off’, about the gradual disintegration of a touring rep production, is considerable. This is, to be fair, acknowledged by the play’s marketing, which calls it — correctly — ‘“Fawlty Towers” meets “Noises Off”’. But the trouble is that anyone who has seen, and loved, ‘Noises Off’, is likely to find the comparison unfavourable: Frayn’s play simply does all the same things, and does them better.

Still, there are laughs to be had here, and the production is a technical triumph: ensuring that props and sets collapse on cue, without actually injuring anyone, is a genuine feat of stage management.

Venue name: Duchess Theatre
Address: 3-5 Catherine Street
Transport: Tube: Covent Garden
Price: £20-£49.50

Average User Rating

3.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:8
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:3
2 people listening

Didn't really expect much of this play but it turned out (after a slow start) to be extremely funny and exceptionally clever.  It takes immaculate timing and skill to make things go wrong to order.  I look forward to the Christmas edition "Peter Pan that goes wrong."  Good solid family entertainment.

Vishaal V

The funniest play I have ever seen. Pick a seat with plenty of legroom- I literally fell out of my seat with laughter! Aimed at fans of Fawlty Towers and that genre of British slapstick so may not universally appeal to tourists! Also look out for the Improv play run by the same production company on a monthly basis at the same theatre. 


I've seen this show twice now and it's still great. It really is a laugh a minute. It's so enjoyable watching the stage fall apart, the actors fall unconscious and fumble lines. It has been beautifully put together and is tight as anything. If you want a good laugh then this is the show to see.

Ciara F

This play was amazing. I had the privilege to watch this play when it was first performed at a fringe theatre and then watched it again in the larger theatre it currently resides in. The comedy and wit were genius and the acting was amazing. Would thoroughly recommend to anyone and would love to watch it again. Absolutely superb.


The Play That Goes Wrong definitely deserves its Olivier awards 2015 best new comedy award. Based on 1920s murder mystery play put on by the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society who are determined that the show must go on despite a series of hilarious mishaps and unfortunate events. All the cast are on point with their acting, comedy timing and facial expressions. It had me laughing from start to finish and definitely a must see for someone who is up for some serious giggles and silliness.

Laura B

I REALLY enjoyed this. Perhaps the humour isn't for everyone but my friends and I loved it. It is predictable and slapstick but to me was the right side of funny and not at all irritating. It is supposed to be hammy and over the top - that is the point of it - and the cast play it to perfection and had me crying with laughter at times. I'll be going to see it again before the run is over and I have also enjoyed their monthly Monday Improv (Lights! Camera! Improvise!) more than once. 

Nick P

How on earth this play has great reviews from credible sources completely baffles me.  This is a pantomime for 6 year olds. Exhausting to watch. My parents and I couldn't wait to leave at the interval. Predictable, boring slapstick comedy with no wit, no clever jokes whatsoever. Many of the characters were incredibly annoying. Especially the butler. Lots of forced laughter from the audience. AVOID.

Paddy W

Despite great reviews, don't be fooled! Though strongly emerging from the traps, the play's main joke - it being a 'Play That Goes Wrong' - quickly becomes worn and repetitive. It tries too hard to be funny and at times has me squirming in embarrassment as the cast struggle with a script and premise that do not deliver. Having said that, some of the acting performances were lamentable and would perhaps be tolerated at a sixth form review but Not in the West End. I wouldn't recommend the play and it makes one admire plays such as 'Noises Off' and 'One Man, Two Guv'ners' anew.

Tatiana N
Staff Writer

I must say I have been wanting to see this play for a long time and luckily I did, and I sure don't regret it :) It's so so funny, I laugh so much it was painful at a point! I went with my partner and we both have a great time on the 1st night of our holidays! It's certainly worth your time and money! 

William w

I must applaud the cast of this very funny play. Full of high energy with some great jokes, comedy of the highest caliber.

Janany A

An absolutely brilliant night out - I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys comedy of this type!



0 of 1 found helpful

The first half was funny, but after a while the novelty of it all wears off and it becomes less funny. I'd say have a large glass of red or two before you take your seats. It will help. Not bad don't pay full price though. Look out for a ticket bargain at last minute dot com. Not worth the full whack price