A few years ago I was invited to a local production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ that took place around the spookiest season of the year…. Halloween! When the review was eventually posted it sparked an intense discussion online as to whether or not critics should review community productions. It is a difficult balancing game for reviewers between the ideas that community theatre production companies are using heavily reduce budgets, at times inexperience cast members and limited materials available with the idea reviewers’ ratings are often taken as the absolute raking of what is good/bad. The nature of theatre is that the same series of shows cycle year after year in either both professional or amateur capacities and it is illogical to say that the shows are always of the same standard. I think where I differ from most other reviewers is the fact that my theatre journey began in community theatre and so have a deeper understanding than most of the hurdles that local shows have to overcome. Having been a stage manager for a range of local theatre productions, there is nothing like the fear you experience when something on stage goes wrong and not being able to simply walk on stage to fix whatever was needed. During a rather unique production of Godspell (where props were set before the show and the actors never once left the stage after this point), there was a series of painstaking moments where the lead actor playing Jesus could not find his prop for an on-stage sketch leading them to simply improvise their way through it. There was also an extremely dangerous moment in a production of Seussical where one actor stood on a nail that sliced directly through his show lucky just missing his foot! Those moments where things can wrong can be so frustrating so to see a show like “The Show that Goes wrong” where they actively engineer the show to go wrong was a unique perspective into the almost backstage elements of theatre that are often ignored!
This production has a rather unique opening with the action beginning before the audience had found their seats. The viewers are greeted by members of the cast who are frantically running around preparing for the show ahead and specifically looking for a misplaced dog. The actors are running around various locations within the auditorium and interacting with audience members which is always a difficult situation to perform in as there is no guarantee that someone will react in the way you require. However, the team were able to flawlessly react to whatever was said by the audience and helped to draw the audience into the show instantly. After this chaotic opening scene, an actor graces the stage as a the pseudo-director of the show we are about to experience. Colon Burnicle played the role of Chris Bean (the play within a plays director) who is an extremely uptight person who introduce the narrative within the play itself. As a producer, this is Chris’s first full-fledged production of the murder mystery “Murder at Havisham Manor” which does not exactly go according to play. The ingenious way that the staging and props have been designed to leap off of walls, fall apart etc has been done in a way that is not only incredible to watch but also seems as if they could be genuine issues in any live production. The ‘issues’ have been crafted and timed in such a way that has the audience rolling in laughter throughout and in all honesty I cannot recall a single moment in the show there wasn’t at least one person in the audience howling with laughter from the moment the audience walked in to the moment they left!
It is clear that not only is every member is this cast incredibly talented but also they are also having great fun being of stage which transcends the stage to heighten the hilarious seasons even more so! The show has been engineered in such a way that allows for the staging to literally fall down around the cast members, props to be misplaced and fake script issues to occur throughout. As a cast, they are able to not only deliver these truly hilarious scenes but to perform them in such a way that seems authentic despite having performed the same sequences hundreds of times previously. Years before I started reviewing theatre, I watched a version of the show and despite having exactly the same gags they were still very exciting and hilarious! After the story had been established and a series of things have gone wrong, the second act in this play is a lot more fast pasted and includes explosions, deception and intense fight scenes. One of the highlights of this production was a sequence of gags towards the end of the production were two performers aim to battle each other to get to the end of the show as said character on stage. There is a hilarious sequence of physical comedy, fighting and mimicking in order for one to topple the other but the best part was a moment where one character seemed to teleport across the stage and appear inside of grandfather clock which was incredible!
Overall, mischief theatre have managed to craft a show that is equal parts hilarious and cleverly terrifying that capture the range of emotions actors/crew experience every time a show is being performed. Despite being meticulously rehearsed the show remains naturally performed and exciting to watch every-time you watch! I would rate this production 5 out of 5 stars!