The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are putting on a Christmas show, but clearly something’s gone very wrong. Costumes are missing, Santa’s half-cut and the set’s falling down, not to mention the string of sausages in the Christmas tree. Worst of all, this is all being broadcast to a mass audience on BBC One. How did this happen?
Well, with a lot of hard work and ingenuity – because rather than an am-dram disaster, The Goes Wrong Show (which kicks off this week with a Christmas special) is actually the laugh-out-loud new project from the Mischief Theatre company, a collection of writers and actors who shot to the mainstream on the stage with The Play That Goes Wrong in 2012 (and who you can learn more about here).
Telling the tale of a talentless acting troupe whose Mouse Trap-style murder mystery play falls into a shambles with missing props, forgotten lines and a collapsing set, The Play That Goes Wrong became a smash hit. Soon it was inspiring spin-offs, seasonal specials on the West End and (more recently) two TV specials, one based on their stage show Peter Pan Goes Wrong and another, A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong, written specially for the BBC.
Now, they’ve got a full six-part series kicking off with a festive special called The Spirit of Christmas – and while I still wasn’t sure whether the thrill of watching the usual theatrical disasters unfold would translate to screen (albeit with a live studio audience), I was happy to be proven wrong.
Though to start with the signs aren’t good. Initially, the opening section of the episode – an introduction from the play’s ‘director’ and a section where ‘Santa’ grumbles about unappreciative children – felt a little too meta and self-indulgent, at least for a first episode.
While I’ve enjoyed all the Mischief Theatre plays and specials I’ve seen, the in-universe subplots involving the fictional actors, their relationships and feuds tend to be the weakest aspect for me, so I was glad when The Spirit of Christmas quickly got to what this team does best – unleashing utter mayhem.
Props are mixed up and malfunction, costumes are torn away by the scenery, cues are missed and lines are lost, and as the episode continues it all builds to a brilliant, hilarious finish.
Sure, the slapstick and mistakes land a little less naturally on TV than they would live on stage, but I was continually impressed by the ingenuity, physical comedy and performances on display. And more importantly, I laughed all the way through. From a half-hour BBC comedy, what more can you ask for than that?
Of course, The Goes Wrong Show won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. If you weren’t convinced by their other TV specials or even the stage shows, you won’t be converted here.
But for people who can’t help but laugh at a half-naked snowman being slowly choked by a toy machine, this is a brilliantly funny festive treat. I can’t wait to see what other presents the Mischief Theatre team have for us to unwrap for this series.
The Goes Wrong Show begins on Monday 23rd December at 7:30pm, and will continue in the New Year