Anything that can go wrong will go wrong – quite deliberately.
The Play That Goes Wrong, the West End’s Olivier Award-winning hit, takes in Southsea’s King’s Theatre from September 24-29 on its third UK tour.
The play introduces The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society who are attempting to put on a 1920s murder mystery, but as the title suggests, the theatrical gods are against them. The results are hilarious.
Playing the show’s director and also the inspector in the mystery they are trying to stage is Jake Curran who has been with the show since January.
“It’s a very physical show,” he says, with something of an understatement. “And it is a lot cleverer than it seems at first, but there is a lot of slapstick.”
The show started its life at a London fringe venue with only four paying members of the public at the first performance. It has since played to an audience of almost one and a half million worldwide. In 2017, The Play That Goes Wrong played simultaneously in 12 countries.
“It’s getting a great response. I come on as the director to introduce the show, and we are all members of this amateur dramatic society. The director is quite pompous. He has got grandiose ideas about how the show is going to go. He thinks it is going to be a great work of art. He sets the whole thing up – and then, of course, everything goes wrong.”
It turns out the biggest art is in masterminding and navigating the deliberate chaos: “We have got a great team of technicians around us. They are keeping on top of everything!”
The show toured to Chichester Festival Theatre earlier this year where the venue’s thrust stage made for a rather different experience to the proscenium arch stages they more usually play.
“It meant that we got a kind of panoramic laugh as the penny dropped for different sections of the audience. On a proscenium arch stage everyone gets the joke at the same time.”
It’s all part of the interest in touring: “You get different audiences. We have found that the northern audiences are slightly more receptive. The audience is so integral to what is going on, and with the actors in the play (within the play) obviously not wanting things to go wrong, you have got to play it like they are not wanting the audience to laugh. And the reactions are therefore funnier the more the tensions are amped up.
“I think people in the south have been slightly more reserved, but I think whatever audience you put in front of it, you are going to get a reaction.”
Jake has been with the show a longish time now: “I think in some small ways perhaps it has changed, but really there is a lot that has to be locked down in the show. We have a duty of care to keep the show how it is. It is on in the West End and on Broadway. It is going to Mexico and Korea and places like that. We are doing a show that a lot of people will already know, and as actors we are bringing our own selves to it, but we still have to play it so that we fit into the existing templates. The show has still got to hit the right beats.”