Comedy has audience rocking with laughter

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The Play That Goes Wrong, Devonshire ParkTheatre, Eastbourne

When you look at the programme about Mischief Theatre’s comedy playing at Devonshire Park Theatre this week you think The Play That Goes Wrong is an idea that is as old as the hills.

A play within a play about a company staging a play where everything goes wrong is nothing new.

But in fact this production is hilariously funny and it has the audience rocking with laughter in their seats even before it starts.

The long-suffering backstage crew of the Cornley Polytehnic Amateur Dramatic Society are valiantly attempting to repair a mantelpiece that won’t stay up and a door that will not shut as the audience take their seats.

I am sure we have all seen amateur (and professional) productions where a door flies open when it shouldn’t or a prop has been forgotten but the Cornley Society must be the unluckiest and worst am-dram company in the world.

None of them can act, which is why the talented cast headed by Artistic Director Henry Lewis and Company Director Jonathan Sayer is so good.

It is far harder to overact and to act really badly than it is to act well.

When the leading lady is knocked unconscious by someone opening the door on her it is the old banana skin joke, everyone finds it hilarious and it does lead on to some of the funniest scenes in the play.

The stage manager Annie, played by Nancy Wallinger, has to come on in her place reading the script.

At first she is very nervous but as she gains confidence she enjoys it.

So when Florence,played by Charlie Russell, recovers enough to come back into her role Annie will not give it up without a fight.

Mark Bell has directed the production with great expertise because, although we were rocking with laughter at the set collapsing around them, some of the stunts actually looked quite dangerous.

Like the upstairs room collapsing, which leaves actors Henry Shields (Inspector Carter) and Henry Lewis (Thomas Colleymoore) on a terrific rake.

Nigel Hook designed a great set and it could not have been an easy task as it has to collapse in the correct places.

If you like good, old-fashioned, almost slapstick comedy by a very talented cast then this is the show for you.

If you cannot make it this week it is opening in London’s West End on September 7.

By Amanda Wilkins