Pieter Toerien Productions’ The Play That Goes Wrong is a masterfully constructed and perfectly executed disaster.
Brilliantly directed by Alan Committie, the show’s play-within-a-play format hilariously debunks the suspension of disbelief required when watching theatre, and obliterates the fourth wall. They exaggerate and exemplify every technical fault we generally ignore when watching a play, such as the breathing dead body or the shaking set walls. In this way, they ready the audience to believe and accept whatever reality is shown while, ironically, captivating them.
And thus begins a review of contradictions, starting with the brilliantly designed flawed and faulty set by Verita Brand and Scene Visual productions. In the play, the set is more than just a backdrop to the story – it’s its own character. From the stubborn door to the erratic wall hangings, the ingeniously dilapidated set instigates much of the chaos that ensues.
The characters react to the set mishaps as if it is completely unexpected, and this is just a testament of the talent of the cast who, utterly convincingly, portray themselves as terrible actors. Nicole Franco plays the character Sandra who, within the play, takes on the role of Florence Colleymoore. She is fantastic with her thoroughly inconsistent accent and lacklustre emotional episodes. Robert Pombo’s role of Dennis, who plays a flustered Perkins, is charming in his incompetence and Theo Landey as Jonathan is the worst dead character ever. But it is Craig Jackson as Max (playing Cecil Haversham and Arthur) who steals the show. His utter intoxication at being on stage and excessive gestures sequences are impressive in their superfluousness.
Much of the humour is unashamedly slapstick, which does get a bit too much by the end. But the actors’ responses in character while playing another character adds a whole different layer to the comedy. The Play That Goes Wrong is lighthearted and downright fun, and will keep you laughing throughout.
Shirley -Anne Bezuidenhout
The Play That Goes Wrong is on at Theatre on the Bay until 17 June 2017.