It’s not often critics bail on a show halfway through, or really put something down. We become almost immune to sensationalist action, of crazed shenanigans happening on stage- or, in the case of live art- blood, glass, needles and nudity, often all at once. One person’s Samuel Beckett is after all another’s Sarah Kane. Everyone has their limits. It isn’t nice for everyone involved in a production who have put their heart, soul and mortgage on the line to read a bad notice.I don’t often mind comedy painted in broad strokes, and slapstick when it’s done right is a simple joy.
However, Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong almost pushed me over the edge. After a hugely grating, crass and painfully obvious hour of stereotypes with one joke each -sexy lady,stuffy Olivier wannabe, camp ‘corpse’ who corpses too much- I fled at the interval. The cast are fine and energetic enough despite the limitations of the writing- there is particularly strong work from Katie Bernstein as put-upon stagehand Annie; Patrick Warner’s pompous thesp Chris, Graeme Rooney’s thuggish sound engineer Trevor, and so forth. But the script is one of the most excruciating things I have witnessed for a long time. The acting is simply too slick, the pratfalls too well choreographed (they are supposed to be the hopelessly misguided drama troupe The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society).
Do forgive me Mischief Theatre, but this just doesn’t work. It is painfully thin. Essentially, the ‘humour’ is predictable, witless and somewhat dated.There is a whiff of Brut aftershave about the whole thing, and Werther’s Originals.You half expect ‘Miss Barbara Dickson’ to appear in something floaty and croon a folky ballad. Using backstage farce tropes (missed sound cues, much scenery chewing, diva tendencies, actors wandering into view chanting lines when they should be hidden, etc) is really cliched. And without strong wordplay or pathos, it is reduced to a series of exercises in the sketch format. Not good enough, not in 2017.
At Glasgow Theatre Royal until March 11th, before touring. Head to the website for more information