The phrase ‘break a leg’ rings almost too true in this British comedy coming to the Dubai stage in June. Caroline McEneaney finds out more about Mischief Theatre Company’s The Play That Goes Wrong.
Everyone knows that feeling you get when you’re watching a performance and the actor forgets a line, trips or misses a crucial prompt. It’s unnerving, uncomfortable and sometimes even upsetting. But one theatre company lives for that moment. In fact, they love it so much, they’ve created an entire show celebrating it.
The purposefully disastrous comedy is called The Play that Goes Wrong. And it’s coming to Dubai’s Madinat Theatre from June 5-7. The show, which is performed by Mischief Theatre Company, is a play about a play and, as the title suggests, anything that can go wrong, does.
The play opens with the stage crew attempting to repair a faulty, damaged set as dramatic music warns the audience that they are in for a memorable experience. Soon you learn that the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society is preparing to stage a production of a 1920s murder mystery at the play’s setting, Hayersham Manor. Producer Kenny Wax explains one of the reasons that this play strikes such a chord with audiences: ‘Many actors start their careers in regional repertory theatre performing in these sorts of plays and many of the things that could go wrong do happen to any drama group.’
The head of the fictional drama society, Chris, whose arrogance is outweighed only by his incompetence, has decided to cast and direct the production himself – a chief task of his being to choose the actor for the leading role of police inspector. The audience soon learns that this play is destined for hilarious failure.
The remainder of the show is filled with mistakes and mishaps ranging from amusing dialogue confusion to total disasters as the set falls apart and the actors experience borderline-dangerous calamities. The fictional murder mystery production degenerates as the actors and directors – in the play within this play – attempt to live the saying ‘the show must go on’.
Mischief Theatre is a London-based comedy theatre company founded in 2008 by graduates and students of The London Academy of Music & Art. The group performed its first play in July 2008 at the Questor Studio Theatre in Ealing, a suburban district of west London. The show was aptly titled Let’s See What Happens.
After a successful start, the group went on to produce three more improvised shows as well as scripted performances including The Murder Before Christmas, Mogic and the Buffoons and now The Play that
Led by artistic director Henry Lewis and company director Jonathan Sayer, Mischief Theatre has developed a reputation for physical and sketch comedy as well as improvisation. With many of their productions receiving highly positive reviews from the likes of The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph, Mischief Theatre has secured a spot in the UK theatre community.
The success of the play is notable for a performance such as this one. Kenny remarks, ‘Many touring plays use recognisable actors or scripts such as Shakespeare or Chekhov to sell tickets. This show, on the other hand, is performed by unknown actors with a title that no one has heard of before. The success of the show has taught me that audiences really just want a good time and to escape when they come to the theatre.’
The same cast that performed this show in London’s West End will be performing in Dubai. Having been performing in this play for 18 months, the actors are well versed in their seemingly accidental mishaps. Kenny explains, ‘The actors don’t appear to be trying to be funny, but they are caught up in a situation so ludicrous that you can’t help but find it hilarious. The play is very tightly scripted, but it’s impossible to know if anything will go wrong in any given performance.’ Of course, in a play like this, accidents are welcome.
From Dhs160. June 5-7. 7.30pm. Madinat Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, www.timeoutticketscom (050 880 5074).