Right: The Murder at Haversham Manor cast: Below right: An inelegant exit. Photos by Jeff Busby
The Play That Goes Wrong
By Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Directed by Mark Bell
Australian Cast director Sean Turner
Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, Kenny Wax
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: May 4-14. Bookings www.qpac.com.au or phone 136 246. Duration two hours including interval
This is probably the worst play you would ever see – and probably the funniest. I don’t think I have ever been in a theatre where the laughter was continual with chuckles, belly laughs, and loud guffaws from beginning to end. There was never a let up and yet the actors never lost a second in timing. It takes a good actor to play a bad actor and the entire cast was spot on for the entire performance.
I have to admit that I laughed as loud as anybody as the inept actors from the Gormley Polytechnic Drama Society performed The Murder at Haversham Manor strutted their stuff on stage. It was reminiscent of the amateur theatre staple The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild plays - only on steroids.
The play had every type of slapstick comedy you could image, there were touches of the Goon Show, Fawlty Towers, Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges – even a touch of Harold Lloyd. Add to that sight gags and some very funny lines, you had a rich comedy cake
And I wondered how much medical insurance they had as the set crumbled around them. There were four understudies in the cast which was not surprising considering the crazy physical stunts the characters were involved in.
And the top accolade goes to the set designer Nigel Hook and head mechanist David Worthy. The magical, accident prone set was the absolute star of the show when everything designed to go wrong did with hilarious results.
Actors worked to precise timing as doors slammed into faces, they fell from high places, were hit over the head time and time again, left hanging from platforms and (particularly Brooke Satchwell were manhandled in and out of doors and windows. They were left trying to hold the set together, and the funniest scene of the show was the telephone call to a man trapped on a falling platform surrounded by furniture. It has to be seen to be believed. It was a spot of comic genius that words could not adequately describe. All this was going on under the forgetful eye of Trevor (Alan Dunn) the sound and lighting man who sat listening to Duran Duran in a Concert Hall box.
On top of that there were wrong entrances, missed entrances, forgotten cues, and long, silent pauses that were funnier than any lines. Not to mention shenanigans with the Grandfather Clock.
Brooke Satchwell, in a lovely 1920s style red frock played the glamour girl Sandra who of course lost the frock to run around in her undies in true British farce style while stage manager Annie (Tammy Weller), got the frock and a script to read when Sandra is whacked unconscious by the recalcitrant door.
Nick Simpson-Deeks was Chris Bean the one man band who ran the group and starred as the Inspector chatted to the audience as well as acting appallingly. But this was a team effort and the rest of the cast, Darcy Brown, Luke Joslin, James Marlowe, Francine Cain, Jordan Prosser and Matthew Whitty were faultless in delivery and gymnastics.
The actors playing the Gormley actors were hamming it up all the away with exaggerated posh English accents and pseudo Noel Coward delivery and I wondered if they had used ordinary voices the show might have been even funnier, but then it might not have been fair on the jawbone.
A mention too of the program; it is large and as much fun to read as the play is to watch with bios of the Gormley player as well as a great set of images and info on the production and some funny “local” advertisements. It is unusually good value for a big show program.