Play Reading in English – The Play that Goes Wrong by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields


HK English Speaking Union
  • Mon 19-09-2016 7:15 PM - 2 h

Colette Artbar

Free admission


The Play that Goes Wrong is a hit spoof comedy from a new company formed by fresh graduates of one of London’s top drama training schools LAMDA back in 2008. The group devised the play as an ensemble production, and the script was co-written by three of its founding members for an upstairs performance at the Old Red Lion Pub Theatre, in London in 2012. Its phenomenal popularity, based on word of mouth among its mainly young audiences, saw the play move to the West End ,Trafalgar Studios, in 2013, and then tour the UK and the international circuit in 2014. It won Best New Comedy at the 2015 Laurence Olivier Awards and Best New Comedy at the Awards in 2014.


Inspired by Michael Green’s 1964 book The Art of Coarse Acting, as well as  the comic antics of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Mr Bean, the result is a play characterised by lost props, fluffed lines (mistakes), bungled entrances and falling scenery. Two other significant theatrical references for comparison are Michael Frayn’s farcical play-within-a play, Noises Off (1981) - which features frantic backstage scenes as the play lurches from one technical disaster to the next - and another more recent spoof comedy from 2005, The Thirty Nine Steps, a huge national and  international touring success.


Its plot also humorously parallels the West End’s longest running play, Agatha Christie’s who-dun-it mystery,The Mousetrap which opened in 1952. As in Frayn’s Noises Off, Mischief Theatre Company doubles as the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, bringing its latest production, ‘Murder at Haversham Manor’, a murder mystery set in an upper class house in the 1920s, to the stage. Thus, there are two casts - the amateur actors in the theatre company and the stock characters they play in the murder mystery, including Charles Havesham who is dead at the beginning of the play, his fiancee Florence and the mandatory Inspector who miraculously appears to investigate his death. The play recalls drawing room comedies and witty romances by Noel Coward, but only superficially. The trouble is that everything that can go wrong on this opening night does – much to the audience’s delight. The performance is beset with disasters and the accident-prone cast struggle woodenly through every scene. Reading a play about really bad acting promises to be enormous fun.


Facilitator: Mike Ingham - with an introduction about Michael Green’s The Art of Coarse Acting and the tradition of stage comedy 


Photo credit:

En  |    |