The Play That Goes Wrong

When the Set Steals the Stage

The Play That Goes Wrong, currently on stage in Toronto at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, is for anyone who has ever been involved with a play in high school, university, or community theatre.  Actually, stagehands might appreciate this show even more than actors.  As the title says, it’s about a play where everything goes wrong.  And of course, any theatre goer will find it hilarious.

As the program points out, it’s a play within a play.  On the first page, it says we are seeing The Murder at Haversham Manor, presented by the Cornley University Drama Society, and a cast of six is listed there.  Next page, the so-called director has a message where he talks about the actors’ efforts to be as professional as possible.  He quotes acting instructor Michael Chekhov as saying “An actor has to burn inside with an outer ease”.  This cast pursued that quest by having vindaloo prior to their performance.

Now, flip through another few pages in the program, and you see the information about The Play That Goes Wrong.  Here a cast of eight is listed, now with their real names.  The list includes the stage manager and the lighting and sound operator who appear frequently on stage during The Murder at Haversham Manor.

So are you totally confused now?  Once you take your seat in the theatre, you will be even more confused.  Everything is chaotic.  Actors and Creative Team members are running up and down the aisles.  We were asked if we had seen a dog that had apparently escaped from back stage.  He wasn’t vicious, we were told, not usually, anyway.

After being welcomed by the director, the audience sits back to enjoy a murder mystery.  The Murder at Haversham Manor seems to be a fairly typical English murder mystery.  First one body, and then another is found.  We learn there has been an affair going on.  The police inspector is called.  Any or all of the other people in the manor could be guilty.  It could be an enjoyable time solving the mystery, except there are continuous screw-ups.

The cast members are all hilarious.  But the real star of this show is the set, furniture and props.  Everything collapses, falls apart, doesn’t work, or is missing.  The door doesn’t open; the elevator catches fire.  Credit goes to the real set-makers to come up with something that literally falls apart on cue.

Of course, there are screw-ups in the cast as well.  There are missed cues, messed up lines, and dead bodies moving around.  One character mispronounces words frequently.  It takes the audience a few more lines to figure out what he is trying to say.  For example, he is talking about poison, and says something that sounds like “ky-ann-eye-dee”, which is actually cyanide.  His dialogue is sprinkled with many such hilarious errors.  And of course, sound effects are late, and the lighting is bad.

The Play That Goes Wrong provides silly entertainment with many laugh-out-loud moments.  The only thing the audience might find more entertaining would be sticking around after the show and watching the stagehands rebuild the set for the next performance.

The Play That Goes Wrong continues with eight shows a week at Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto.  Call Ticket King 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit for tickets.

Photo: The Play That Goes Wrong.  Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

The Play That Goes Wrong
By Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields
Directed by Matt DiCarlo
Performed by Brandon J. Ellis, Evan Alexander Smith, Yaegel T. Welch, Payton Crim, Scott Cote, Jamie Ann Romero, Ned Noyes, Angela Grovey.
Produced for David Mirvish
Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto
January 9 to February 10, 2019
Reviewed by Mary Alderson


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