The Play That Goes Wrong was written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, all of the London-based Mischief Theatre – a company formed in 2008 by past and present students of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. When the show premiered at a fringe venue in London in 2012, it quickly became a smash hit. After moving to the West End in 2014, it received an Olivier Award for Best New Comedy and recently commenced a UK tour.

This year, The Play That Goes Wrong has travelled across the Atlantic to Broadway, and it’s also in the midst of a tour around Australia that takes in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Perth. It arrives in Australia under the direction of Sean Turner, an associate director at Mischief Theatre.

Described as ‘Fawlty Towers meets Noises Off’, The Play That Goes Wrong is a farcical play-within-a-play. Members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society have come together to perform what is hoped will be their most impressive work to date, following a series of productions that, for various reasons, haven’t gone to plan. The production on this occasion is The Murder at Haversham Manor, a 1920s murder mystery.

But from the moment the curtain rises on The Murder at Haversham Manor, it’s beset with a series of errors of varying degrees, from flubbed lines and missed cues, to falling set pieces and injured performers. In fact, the writers have worked to ensure that at every conceivable chance for something to go wrong, that’s precisely what occurs.


The cast of The Play That Goes Wrong (Photo by Jeff Busby)

As you’d expect, The Play That Goes Wrong isn’t a piece laden with social commentary or that leaves one pondering timely and important questions about the world after leaving the theatre, but the enthusiastic crowd response it provoked on opening night suggests it’s a show that many have – and will continue – to enjoy. And that enjoyment doesn’t owe to the piece having a brilliant script or compelling story within a story, rather the show’s success as a good night out entirely relies on the quality of performances.

Fortunately, Turner has assembled a cast for the show’s Australian premiere that’s more than capable of extracting from audiences an optimal number of laughs. As Robert Grove, Cornley Drama Society veteran of three years, Luke Joslin is the standout, delivering what could fairly be characterised as a masterclass in farce acting. Not only does Joslin demonstrate expert comedic timing with every line that leaves his mouth, but his physicality is tremendous. Tasked with pulling off some of the more physically trying moments in the piece, his performance earns him a number of well-deserved laughs. As Chris Bean, Nick Simpson-Deeks does well in his efforts to ensure he’s amusingly awful. And James Marlow, a Londoner who’s previously performed in The Play That Goes Wrong on the West End, is entertaining as Cornley newbie Max Bennett, who unashamedly and overtly savours every moment of audience adulation.

And it would be an oversight not to acknowledge the impressive portrayal of Sandra Wilkinson, the society’s prized first lady, by Brooke Satchwell. It’s a highly successful and abundantly energetic depiction of the archetypal stage diva who’s her own biggest fan.


Nick Simpson-Deeks and Brooke Satchwell in The Play That Goes Wrong (Photo by Jeff Busby)

At the helm of the ‘real’ show, Turner’s direction of the actors is not only noteworthy in respect of guidance towards good acting choices, but in ensuring a tight pace is consistently maintained and, also, that performers maximise their use of the space.

Nigel Hook’s set is a good fit for the spacious Roslyn Packer stage and not only does it look the part, but also makes its own integral contribution to ensuring the production of The Murder at Haversham Manor is as disastrous as is humanly possible, including with respect to its technical elements.

The Play That Goes Wrong will be so genuinely the wrong fit for some theatregoers, but in others, it will find enthusiastic fans. It doesn’t set out to be challenging or express a political standpoint, but rather it gives audiences the opportunity to sit back and enjoy a talented cast of local and international actors showcasing their extensive comedic talents. Sometimes, a night at the theatre is simply about escaping the woes of the world for a short time. For that purpose, The Play That Goes Wrong hits the right note.




Venue: Roslyn Packer Theatre, 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Dates: Playing now until 23 April, but later returning for further performances from 16 May 2017
Times: Tue 7pm, Wed – Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 1pm & 5pm
Prices: Tickets from $89.90
Bookings: &


Venue: Canberra Theatre, Civic Square, London Circuit, Canberra
Dates: From 25 April 2017
Times: Tue 6.30pm, Wed – Fri 7.30pm, Sat 2pm & 7.30pm, Sun 1pm & 5pm
Prices: Tickets from $89.90


Venue: Concert Hall, QPAC, Corner of Grey & Melbourne Streets, South Bank
Dates: From 4 May 2017
Times: Tue 6.30pm, Wed – Fri 7.30pm, Sat 2pm & 7.30pm, Sun 1pm & 5pm
Prices: Tickets from $89.90


Venue: His Majesty’s Theatre, 825 Hay Street, Perth
Dates: From 31 May 2017
Times: Tue 7pm, Wed – Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 1pm & 5pm
Prices: Tickets from $89.90

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