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The Play That Goes Wrong

Duchess Theatre

3-5 Catherine Street, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5LA 0330 333 4810

The Play That Goes Wrong
  • Synopsis
  • Theatremonkey show opinion
  • Reader reviews
  • Performance schedule
  • Ticket prices


Old Red Lion Theatre and Mischief Theatre present new comic writing from the producer of Mercury Fur finds the inept Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society staging a 1920’s murder mystery
Forgotten lines, inept actors and a set with its screws loose form the heart of this fast-paced, celebrated new comedy, which transfers to the West End direct from an acclaimed run at the Old Red Lion Theatre earlier this year.
Focusing on the many trials and tribulations of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, the play tells the story of the company’s staging of 1920’s murder mystery Murder at Haversham Manor. Chris the arrogant head of the drama society has directed the piece and cast himself as the dynamic Inspector, while desperate wannabe actress Sandra and the genuinely doting Max struggle opposite each other as the romantic interests and actor Dennis still can’t pronounce “façade”. An hour of delicately timed disaster ensues; actors get knocked out, the play gets stuck on a loop and the set starts to disintegrate.
The production’s third run on the West End Stage signals underlines the latest in a series of transfers from the Old Red Lion, which develops bold, dynamic and innovative theatre, providing a space where work is created and seen first.

(Seen at the afternoon performance on 26th July 2015) Some actors have now left the cast.
It took the monkey over a year to get around to this - and it is pleased it did - managing to catch much of the original cast before they disperse to other projects.

That the play is the product of graduating drama students "doing it for themselves" and ending up, through numerous versions and presentations, with a full-length show backed by a major producer is an achievement. It also means that their frame-of-reference for its creation matches directly the situation they attempt to create. Students writing about a 'student dramatic society' means that emotionally, the whole thing feels genuine even as every artificially created comedic idea unfolds.

And that is the true strength of the show. Fans of 1970s sitcoms will recognise every element of slapstick, every scrape and "Fawlty" moment - and still, because the show is so truthful, laugh like drains. Better, every performance is slightly different (a third-time visitor informed the monkey that one particularly wonderful "pantomime" moment has never happened before), and if the show has been running a year, it still feels as fresh as the first night it portrays.

Some wonderful performances from Adam Byron as Trevor the indolent Lighting and Sound Man, Rob Falconer as a cheery Max Bennett, Henry Shields as Chris Bean - effortlessly improvising from audience reaction; plus rubber-faced, exquisitely expressive Nancy Wallinger as Annie Twilloil are the highlights of a cast who work tirelessly to ensure nothing goes right.

Yes, the play itself could do with a little more structure towards the end, and just occasionally a little time to allow the audience to rest before the next joke (and also, perhaps, the odd deletion of repeating a fairly flat joke twice). For the most part, though, it zips along, laughs piling up and honouring the finest traditions of "Noises Off" and "No Sex Please, We're British" to name but two.

It's not going to please everybody. Those seeing sophisticated word-play should look elsewhere; but after a hard day at work it requires little effort to love this manic group of young hopefuls, and should delight the Great British crowd. The monkey for sure will be back to see it again some time, and only wishes it had caught the show sooner.


Legacy reader reviews

Dress Circle seats J9, 10, 11. There are fairly steep steps to get up here, but these seats were an absolute bargain at £20 each. Central, lots of legroom, decent rake, unimpeded view except for slightly missing the very top when they were on the platform. Would sit here again without hesitation.

Stalls L27 and L28. End of row, restricted view. VERY restricted I would say, although I have never tried them before. There was an awful lot that couldn't be seen, not just a 5 minute scene as implied by Theatremonkey. (All seats have variable views - editor).

Zzzzzzzzzz. The woman howling with laughter behind me, even when she couldn't see what was going on, sums it up nicely from my point of view. So glad I had cheap seats near the back for a quick exit.

I'm not a fan of farces, but I went to see this play because a few years ago I saw a memorable performance where everything really did go wrong... and I was interested to see how a play compared to the real thing.

Well, all I can say is that schadenfreude is a terrible thing; but it was wonderful to be able to laugh out loud at the disasters befalling the actors - and my friend and I laughed from beginning to end. In fact, the only people who didn't seem to be laughing sat next to my friend and she could hear them complaining about fluffed lines and the poor set etc....did they know what the play was about?

We were lucky to get discounted tickets (£20 each) for prime seats (row G in the stalls) and it was the best £20 I have spent in a very very long time. I can't recommend this play enough; it isn't deep and meaningful and it won't have you joining in long and thoughtful discussions about its subject matter - but it will really cheer you up.


Saturday 28th February 2015.

Dress Circle B15 and 16. Not ever been to this theatre before and thought it was really lovely. Not a large venue but big enough to create a great atmosphere. The circle is very well raked and the seats we sat in were very comfortable with very good legroom indeed and a very good view of the stage. .. they come highly recommended!

The show was excellent with such brilliant performances from the entire cast! The theatre was packed and everyone was in hysterics. I know that farce/slapstick isn't for everyone but if you liked 'noises off/faulty towers' or have an appreciation of amateur dramatics or just love an incredible laugh you will love this show... SPOILER ALERT I won't give away too much but the show really does start before curtain up and we bumped into one of the cast at the bar.. (get there early). SPOILER ENDS.

Some have criticised the going from one act play to two acts but I really don't think it matters... the only slight criticism I have is that towards the end it all gets very manic with everyone shouting and doing their thing as the whole thing collapses around them... that could of been done with slightly more finesse but it's only an observation and nothing else.

Truly loved it and can't wait to go back and see it again!!


Just went to see 'The Play That Goes Wrong' in the Duchess Theatre today (19th April 2015). It's my second time watching it - still very funny!

My friend and I sat at Stall C3 and C4 - excellent view. At first we thought seat number 3 and 4 would offer a side view, but there are fewer seats in the front rows. Just for comparison, C3 and C4 are at the same position as, say, F6 and F7. [spoiler alert!] Since we are almost level with the stage, we missed less than 1% of the act when an actress fainted behind the sofa. I wouldn't worry about that at all, as you can still figure out what happened in that scene. [spoiler ends]. In summary, these seats offer brilliant views!

The Play That Goes Wrong is supposedly performed by an AmDram company, who (they believe) have finally found a production within their scope.

They could not be more wrong. One disaster follows another, with hilarious after-effects.

The first half is where the most gut-achingly funny gags occur, as props fail, lines go wrong actors have mishaps, all leading towards (and often combining to create) even bigger gags and laughs. There were times I was in genuine pain; struggling to get my breath and just wanting a gap in the action to regain my composure. And failing completely.

The second half is perhaps not as funny as the first, being more reliant on physical comedy. It is also the home of the one joke that falls flat (mainly through over-repetition). Don’t get me wrong, it is still laugh out loud funny, but just not at the level that makes you feel your inside is going to burst like the first. Though there is a trick performed in this half that I have no idea how they pulled it off.

Two important things: 1. Get there early. There are things going on before the show that you might not realise are going on, but they slip into the show as it develops. Same thing during the interval. 2. Buy a programme. I always get one, but understand others don’t. But in this case, buy one as it joins in with the joke and forms additional jokes that enhance the show!

This show gets rave reviews, and for good reason. If you want a laugh, buy a ticket and go along. You will come out hurting, but for good reason.

Bob Pickett.

For the first time in a very long while I’ve left the theatre feeling distinctly underwhelmed and somewhat cheated. This feels very much a late night student review at The Fringe rather than a fully-fledged West End show. The place was pretty packed and there was continual laughter - though the people in front of us didn’t reappear for the second half – but ultimately it falls flat.

Simple conceit - the cast get through the play and everyone / everything falls apart – completely. That’s it. Essentially 'Noises Off' without the story line, characterisation and the rest.

The cast aren’t bad, but I’ve seen better physical comedy - think 'One Man Two G’uvnors.' Had they condensed this into a one hour, one act show (which is where it started) we would have left on a high. If you like slapstick then you’ll like this - my companion was in danger of an asthma attack but, by mid-way through the second act, even he was breathing normally.

Seats E1 and 2 were OK – decent leg room (but not as good as the end of F behind) but there’s virtually no rake so neck was feeling cricked. Cheers for Nica Burns and her loo refit (maybe she really understands) – always grateful to her!

Just come back from this (12th July 2015) and it was worth missing the live transmission of the Wimbledon final (although I'm now about to watch the recording, having carefully avoided finding out who won….).

This is a glorious two hours of total nonsense, brilliantly delivered by a cast who are clearly enjoying themselves as much as the audience. If the Reduced Shakespeare Company was your idea of entertainment, you are almost guaranteed to find this just as much fun. Timing is everything, but a stage full of props which don't do what they should helps things along, too! Forget the deep, meaningful plays acted by by committed, sensitive actors with an insight into complex, repressed characters: this is just laugh-out-loud funny. Minimum suggested 8 is age and that's probably about right – the slapstick had the children in the audience in stitches.

We sat in Stalls C7, 8 , 9 and 10. Comfortable seats with a superb view (heights ranged from 5' 2" to 5' 11") and plenty of leg room. Be warned: the seats are lower than you might expect, which makes sitting down and getting up again a slight challenge for those of a less nimble disposition. No big deal, but just be aware of it if anyone in your party has real trouble with seat heights which are below average.

16th August 2015.

One of the few plays on a Sunday evening. Sat in stalls M17. Since the theatre is rather small I had a good view. Legroom is not great, but adequate (once again, I’m 6’2’’). After the interval I switched to empty seat L15. Heaven! I had two armrests for myself (L16 was also empty) and I could blissfully move my leg into the aisle. So if you can, get an aisle seat in row K or M.

If I were mean I could dub “The Play That Goes Wrong” “The Play That Tries To Hard”. They throw everything at the audience, but not all of it sticks. To be fair, the audience was howling with laughter (sometimes annoyingly so), and I had some laugh-out-loud moments to, as well as many chuckles, but I felt, a little more structure, a little more time to let the good jokes breathe, would go a long way. A perfect example for that would be “Noises Off!”which I find superior in every regard. But I don’t want to sound too negative. There’s a lot to like, and the enthusiasm of the actors is quite infectious.

At night on 31st October 2015, we made our first visit to the Duchess Theatre for "The Play That Goes Wrong". Found this play to be hilarious mayhem from start to finish - it's a bit like the theatrical equivalent of Airplane - it's relentlessly silly and the jokes come so thick and fast that they don't all hit, but that doesn't matter.

Superbly played by a talented cast, how they are not consistently maimed is beyond me. This will not be for everyone, if you like your humour suave, sophisticated and cleverly witty, then stay away. But if you are prepared to be swept away with the sheer deftness of it all then it's unmissable.

We sat in the stalls, row C, seats 8 and 9. I totally agree with what is already on your site - perfect view apart from what goes on behind the sofa, we thought they were excellent - except for (as already stated) they are so low! Folding my 6'5" frame in was a challenge in itself, and once in I couldn't move, my knees were pressed up against the back of the chair in front, and became extremely painful by the end of each act. It's a good job the play was so entertaining! So I advise caution to those of a similar stature.

Saw this at the matinee on 6th February 2016. Utterly brilliant. I laughed so hard I thought I might need an ambulance! This play should have a government health warning!

As I was just passing time whilst I waited for my daughter, who was at a convention elsewhere in London, I booked a restricted view seat to save money... and what a bargain it turned out to be. Just £19 for seat F22 in the stalls. End of the row, no seat in front so endless legroom ( in fact I could have laid on the floor and not disturbed anyone ! ) and a great view. There is a fireplace stage left which cannot be seen from this seat so I guess I missed a few fireplace related jokes. Made no difference to me....I missed loads more jokes simply because I was crying with laughter and gasping for breath!

A great show, lovely theatre, highly recommended. Lets hope it runs for years and that they never find the dog.....!

 We had read some reviews about the production which were very positive and several of my friends raved about how funny it was.

So I guess our expectations were high as we sat in the stalls (L17 and 18 as recommended on Theatre Monkey) and were surprised at how small the Duchess Theatre was.

The play starts almost the moment you sit in your seat, there is interaction with the audience (I won't spoil it for readers) and some laughs.

Once it starts the pace quickens and you really do need to watch every moment to catch the crazy, daft antics along with the impeccable timing of the cast.

Every one of the (relatively) small cast performed brilliantly, playing their part perfectly and the laughter filled the room. They responded to the audience, plenty of improvisation I suspect, although it's hard to tell!

The set is very clever, again I will not spoil it, but just to say the set is a big part of the performance.

Highly recommend this play. Buy a ticket for hilarious madness!

Thanks again for your help with seats, this time for the Duchess Theatre.

Stalls G24 (Restricted view) - hold the front page: plenty of leg room in London Theatre! And a goodish view of most of the stage; and all for £20.

It's not all good news though as there was no description of what the restricted view was and it turned out, for this play, that it was quite significant. Many of the visual gags on the left of the stage were hidden.

Still, an amusing way to spend a midweek evening.

Yorkshire Monkey

Fortunately for us, the tickets were discounted (centre stalls with a perfect view). I say fortunately, as this was probably the first ever West End production that we have walked out of at half time. I had a sinking feeling just before the interval that this might be what eternal damnation feels like - also probably just at the point when I wondered if this was a one act production, but thankfully it turned out that we got to escape at half time.

Farce is a tough one - you either take to it and love it or you don't - we, it would seem, fall into the latter category. The premise is promising and straightforward - an amateur cast take on a period murder mystery and things don't go to plan.

The problem for me was, that there wasn't any solid comic writing there to back up the laboured slapstick, clumsily telegraphed disintegrating set and clichéd character development. We were, however, in a minority with hordes of theatregoers around us on the verge of cardiac arrest from laughing too hysterically. I suppose the final straw was the lead character manically berating the audience and sliding inexorably into a bad Basil Fawlty impression, and then the production descending into panto (complete with "oh yes it is" "oh no it isn't").

A really disappointing evening.


I love plays performed by this company. I have seen their other two "Comedy about a Bank Robbery" and "Peter Pan Goes Wrong". This was by far the best. It was hilarious from start to finish and the time went very quickly.

As with all their plays it is about an amateur company performing a play and in this case it is a murder mystery. Although the performance does not start until 7.30, ensure you are there by 7.15 as the actors interact with the audience for the first 15 minutes before the curtain rise and this is all part of the entertainment. From the title you can imagine that things do not go according to plan and by the end of the play most of the set has collapsed around the actors, as well as the actors making terrible mistakes.

In this play I am amazed that nobody has been injured, as doors knock people out and parts of the scenery collapse in such a way that the actors have to hold on. The night I went the entire audience was totally caught up in the action and laughing non stop. An excellent evening out. I thoroughly recommend it.

Dress Circle C 20: A really good seat on the end of a row. I paid full price, but it had a clear view of the stage and there was plenty of leg room. This was my first visit to this theatre and on another occasion I would go for the seat the other end of the row (C 1) just because it has easy access to the foyer and toilets.

I first saw this comedy about 4 years ago and loved it so thought I would go again, this time accompanied by a 14 year old (!) at a matinee performance on 5th January 2019. What can I say – it’s hilarious, you never know what’s going to happen next, the actors, the props, the scenery, all totally unpredictable. The actor’s timing is impeccable, so very clever, and very physical performances. How do they exert that much energy twice some nights and also not actually hurt themselves. The “cool” 14 year old and I spent the entire show laughing out loud and applauding various clever moments, who ever said farce was dead had clearly not seen this show. I have seen this company’s other productions (“Peter Pan” and “Bank Robbery”) which I also loved but I still consider this comedy to be the best. Get there 15 minutes early to be part of the interactive sub plot.

We sat in the stalls G24/23 discounted at £22 – good deal, but we couldn’t see the comedy action that took place on the extreme left of the stage by the fireplace in the first half. After the interval we moved up to G 20/21 which were empty and that was better.

The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.

Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Sunday at 3pm and 7pm

Runs 2 hours 5 minutes approximately.


Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.

Until 21st July 2024

Duchess Theatre Prices Seating Plan


From 23rd July 2024 

Duchess Theatre Prices Seating Plan
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