There is an f-word in theatre that some would argue should be cautiously avoided, because it runs the risk of being a fiasco when it flops at being funny... that f-word is Farce. But when done right, when the fiasco isn’t unintentional but perfectly timed to look natural in its tomfoolery, it becomes a very fortunate feat. If you get yourself to Theatre on the Bay, you will see the best example of such a farcical feat that out fools all others in The Play That Goes Wrong.
Personally, I believe there is a subtle difference between farce and pure slapstick. For me a farce fails in being funny when slapstick is overplayed to such a degree that it loses the true nature of the show. Slapstick should but be an element that amplifies the farcicalness. The trick to a farce done right strangely enough lies in the drama of it all. When its dramatic nature is made light of with boisterous zeal by exaggerated characters, to such an extent that the plot becomes improbable to the silliest of degrees, that’s where the funny lies, that’s where the audience will want to keel over with laughter.
A great farce is so much more than a cheap albeit humorous pie in the face. It has an element of art in everything from text to its onstage reflection; a playground for physical theatre actors that requires heightened theatrical gusto to result in laughter with satisfaction. That art is what you find in The Play That Goes Wrong. It is genius in every part of its composition. You don’t blink for a moment without a giggle or squeal, as you wipe away tears of laughter. Its greatly overplayed ‘dramatic’ murder mystery storyline makes the South African staging of the Mischief Theatre Company’s 2015 Olivier Award Winning Best Comedy, a must see.
Under direction of Alan Committie, the local offering stays true to the genius and vision of the original, with only subtle South African nuances added without detracting from the feel and flow of the play as Mischievously conceptualised. Committie clearly understands its laughter recipe, as the timing of this play is very much in tune with his own style of comedy.
A play within a play, you find yourself an audience member on the opening night of the Northriding Polytechnic Drama Society’s latest production, the Murder at Haversham Manor. A ‘dog’ is running amuck, Duran Duran is making a comeback of sorts, and you are informed that at long last the company has the budget to do a proper play… what could possibly go wrong?! With great delight, everything!
Robert Fridjhon and Craig Jackson, respectively portraying the actors who play the roles of best friend and brother to the most hilarious corpse embodied by Theo Landey, once again show why they are some of the top physical comedy actors in the country. If you are accustomed to their theatrical shenanigans, be prepared to see them up the frantic energy a notch or 50. Their antics make for side-splitting hysterical moments, and one would suspect very happy physio-therapists on retainer.
The rest of the cast, who include Russel Savadier, Roberto Pombo, Nicole Franco, Sive Gubangxa and Louis Viljoen, are as amusing to witness. They extravagantly buy into the embellished hysterics of it all. They may come across as clumsy, confused or even disinterested, but running into doors and tripping over your own feet require great talent. In this cast, talent abounds, as they complement each other perfectly in timing and execution. It is particularly entertaining to see how Franco, Gubangxa and Viljoen eventually become one person, while Pombo is responsible for great giggles as he presents the best portrayal of someone playing the worst butler ever. For his part, Savadier is so convincingly perfect at not knowing what he is doing as detective, that if you're ever in a bit of a jam, he is the one you would want to ‘solve’ your crime.
The Play That Goes Wrong is a scream... of terror, for the casts' characters, and of exuberant delight, for the audience. The magic of this production is that everything goes so wrong, that it is absolutely right in being a gloriously catastrophic murder mystery. Fortune truly smiles on the ‘unfortunate’. The cast and crew all deserve great applause for the skill they bring to this production, in making everything look so naturally calamitous in the intentional disaster of it all. This play truly takes a village.
In The Play That Goes Wrong you will find the current A-Team of silliness and farce physicality at play! You will literally see everything, from the actors to the exquisitely constructed set, fall apart and still be left wanting more of the chaos-driven comedy. HILARIOUS is not a strong enough description for The Play That Goes Wrong. I am definitely booking my tickets at Computicket to see it a second and even a third time at Theatre on the Bay before the run ends 17 June 2017.