The Play That Goes Wrong/Malvern Theatres

THIS laugh-a-second masterpiece is a triumph not just for a supremely talented company of actors but also for the genius of a set designer whose contribution to the piece is absolutely crucial.

This is a gag that lasts for nearly two hours, basically a running joke that explores about everything that can go wrong on stage.

And by the time the Festival Theatre’s curtain comes down – and this time it’s for real, with no mishaps, although you never know for sure – the audience can then allow their laughter-ravaged rib cages to take a well-earned rest.

Murder at Haversham Manor is being staged by Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and disaster strikes almost immediately, setting the tone for the whole evening.

The mixed fortunes that can plague any am-dram production is the rich vein of potential humour being mined here, and you can bet your life that no stone is left unturned when it comes to this feast of fiascos in the footlights.

You could say it’s a peculiarly British phenomenon that we take delight in laughing at ourselves... and especially so when it comes to live theatre, so often the domain of the joyless pseudo intellectual and literary bore.

But there’s most certainly no room here for the po-faced, because anyone who doesn’t crack up when viewing the antics of the Mischief Theatre company quite obviously not only doesn’t have a sense of humour, but is also probably devoid of a pulse, too.

Doors slammed in faces, ornaments falling from walls and mantlepieces, collapsing window frames, tilting floors, grandfather clocks that become coffins for hapless participants… and for all this we have to thank set designer Nigel Hook who deserves some kind of Bafta – or perhaps that should read ‘dafter’ – award for his efforts.

Marry up all this visual mayhem with the razor sharp quills of writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields and you have a comedy creation that will most surely run and run.

The Play That Goes Wrong is at Malvern Theatres until Saturday (August 18). It’s utterly brilliant and simply should not be missed.

John Phillpott