No other show gets so much right by getting so much wrong. The Play That Goes Wrong has been turning the stuff of disaster into comic triumph for three years in the West End.
It has spawned a whole slew of shows from its creators, Mischief Theatre. Last Christmas the company presented three separate productions in London.
This, the company’s first little show – originally seen at London pub theatre, the Old Red Lion – has grown over the past five years, but the central idea, the implosion of a theatrical production, remains intact.
The premise is beautiful in its simplicity. The Cornley University Drama Society (formerly a Polytechnic, renamed for an American audience) is trying and failing to produce a stage murder mystery, and anything that can go wrong does go wrong. This includes the near total collapse of the constantly malfunctioning set. Nigel Hook’s impressive design gives a strong performance in its own right.
The ensemble, imported from London and led by co-authors, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, are all adept physical comedians. It takes great actors to look this terrible.
In London, it is playing at one of the West End’s smallest playhouses, and feels full of homespun charm. On Broadway, on a larger stage, it seems to have found the courage to take even bigger risks.
The result is not just the funniest play on Broadway at the moment, but also one that demonstrates that the London fringe can still act as a launch pad to bigger things. Broadway is sure to take this show to its heart. A long run seems likely.