REVIEW: The Play That Goes Wrong, at The Everyman, Cheltenham
- Credit: Photos by Robert Day featuring previous UK Tour cast
The Play That Goes Wrong 2021: Cheltenham Everyman, July 21-August 1
The Play That Goes Wrong is so, so right for a World That’s Gone Wrong, says Katie Jarvis (Herself – and this might surprise you - Verging On ‘Wrong’ On A Couple Of Occasions.)
I’ll be honest here. I’ve been in The Audience That Went Wrong a few times now. And usually – *flutters eyelashes and blushes becomingly* – for reasons not unconnected with oneself.
Notable examples (which I might just have mentioned before) include:
Watching a highly atmospheric play at the Everyman’s Studio when, suddenly, the dark stage was flooded with light.
Being your dedicated theatre critic – *again, flutters eyelashes and blushes becomingly* – I scribbled in my notebook, ‘Such clever use of lighting. NB: ‘Whether we like it or not, the one justification for the existence of all religions is death; they need death as much as we need bread to eat.’
‘KATE!’ Ian, next to me, whispered in panic. ‘I’ve just accidentally leaned back against some light switches.’
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That explained why the cast, valiantly carrying on with lines, was simultaneously looking ceiling-ward with increasingly desperate perplexity.
Behind Ian – in ways I find difficult to describe in all their glory – was a dazzling array of light switches; hence the exciting and lengthy combination of effects until Ian finally found the right off-switch.
Everyman, I humbly apologise.
Another – not at the Everyman – was when I was genuinely ill (way pre-Covid) with a stinking cold but didn’t feel I could not review a play I was down to do. If only I’d felt I couldn’t not not not – lost count, but you know what I mean – review it.
I woke myself up during a particularly silent, dramatic bit with a snore of such ferocity, the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California instantly tried to get hold of my number.
We’re in the audience, at the Everyman, having had a drink at the lovely pavement tables. And having had various Covid conversations with awaiting theatregoers.
Me: ‘I had Covid back in October and still can’t smell or taste.’
Interested person at next table: ‘I can’t see the point of eating or drinking if you can’t taste’.
Me, tentatively: ‘Err… Because I don’t want to die…?’
As we take our seats, we can see a technician, on stage, surreptitiously trying to attract the attention of the sound guy up in the balcony. And mostly failing.
I feel stressed for her.
Suddenly, she succeeds. As the sound guy peers down, she dangles at him an empty lead.
The sound guy has no choice but to address the audience. ‘We appear to have lost a dog for tonight’s show,’ he explains. ‘A small black French bulldog. ‘He likes enclosed spaces.’ We all, obligingly, rifle through our handbags.
And so begins an evening which eclipses even the hilariousness of Dominic Cummings dissing Boris’s political strategies.
We’re in a country house library, filled with props that no one – other than the sweetly naïve cast – views with any kind of confidence. A murder is afoot. But we also instinctively know that, if any of this cast escapes life-changing injury from falling scenery, the evening’s performance will be counted an overwhelming success.
If you’ve not seen Mischief before – creators of Goes Wrong (you can still get their wonderful Goes Wrong TV series on BBC iPlayer. Don’t watch it alone in case you end up needing medical assistance) – then you should defo see this Everyman play. If you have seen them, you won’t need me telling you this.
Their plays, characterised by casts of startling ineptitude, demonstrate the sort of incompetence, inefficiency, hubris, and bungling solutions only eclipsed by the current Government.
Unlike the current, etc, etc, they are side-splitting.
I DON’T WANT TO SPOIL THE JOKES!
So I won’t. Suffice to say, it’s slapstick that’s so, so deceptively clever. Laurel and Hardy scripted by Einstein. If you’ve viewed the famous House Falls on Buster Keaton sketch, then almost every scene has a small-scale, fantastically clever, replica.
If ever we’ve needed Mischief, we need them now. Every single person who went into that theatre came out a better person.
Cast, you were – each and every one of you – sublime. I so hope you found the dog.
And then, at the end, when we’d laughed ourselves silly, and the cast was taking a massively deserved bow… one of them said, ‘Thank you, everyone, for coming back to the theatre.’
And I almost cried.
During lockdown, I often thought of the theatre – of course I thought of theatre: cast, crew, staff, everyone – with loss and sympathy and concern. But, suddenly, here it was in front of me. A cast of people, who must have been through hell, throwing all care aside – theirs and mine – to create the sort of evening we all need to value, pay for, fight for.
Thank you, Mischief. Thank you, Everyman. Thank you, everyone in the theatre world.
The Everyman Theatre is at Regent Street, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1HQ, box office 01242 572573; everymantheatre.org.uk