The Play That Goes Wrong

The Play That Goes Wrong is a play by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields of Mischief Theatre Company.

The Play That Goes Wrong
The Play That Goes Wrong artwork.jpg
Official artwork for the West End production transfer to the Duchess Theatre
Written byHenry Lewis
Jonathan Sayer
Henry Shields
Date premiered2012 (2012)
Place premieredOld Red Lion Theatre
Original languageEnglish
Official site

It won Best New Comedy at the 2015 Laurence Olivier Awards.[1]

Mischief Theatre Company have also written Peter Pan Goes Wrong which opened at London's Apollo Theatre in December 2015 and starred the original cast from The Play That Goes Wrong.[2] Two television specials, an adaptation of Peter Pan Goes Wrong and a sequel titled A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong, aired on BBC One in December 2016 and 2017.[3][4] A TV series, The Goes Wrong Show, followed in 2019.[5][6]


Before the play starts the audience see the backstage staff doing last-minute adjustments to the set, including trying to mend a broken mantelpiece and find a dog that has run off.

The fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society (Cornley University in the American version), fresh from such hits as The Lion and The Wardrobe, Cat, and James and the Peach (or James, Where's your Peach?), has received a substantial bequest and is putting on a performance of The Murder at Haversham Manor – a 1920s murder mystery play, similar to The Mousetrap, which has the right number of parts for the members. The script was written by the fictitious Susie H.K. Brideswell. During the performance, a play within a play, a plethora of disasters befall the cast, including doors sticking, props falling from the walls, and floors collapsing. Cast members are seen misplacing props, forgetting lines (in one scene, an actor repeats an earlier line of dialogue and causes the dialogue sequence triggered by that line to be repeated, ever more frenetically, several times), missing cues, breaking character, having to drink white spirit instead of whisky, mispronouncing words, stepping on fingers, being hidden in a grandfather clock, and being manhandled off stage, with one cast member being knocked unconscious and her replacement (and the group technician) refusing to yield when she returns. The climax is a tribute to a scene in Buster Keaton's film Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928), when virtually the whole of the remaining set collapses.


London (2012–present) and UK tours (2014–present)Edit

The play premiered at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London in 2012, moved to Trafalgar Studios in 2013.

The play then began a UK tour, following its run at Trafalgar Studios, from January 2014 at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, visiting 17 venues and ending in Darlington in July, prior to the opening at the Duchess Theatre in London.[citation needed]

The play then opened at the Duchess Theatre in the West End on 14 September 2014, where it remains and is currently booking until May 2020.[7] The direction is by Mark Bell. The cast included Henry Shields as Chris, Dave Hearn as Max, Rob Falconer as Trevor, Henry Lewis as Robert, Charlie Russell as Sandra, Jonathan Sayer as Dennis, Greg Tannahill as Jonathan, and Nancy Zamit as Annie. Sets are by Nigel Hook and costumes are by Roberto Surace.[8][9]

The play began a second UK tour from January 2017, starting at the Theatre Royal in Bath, ending at the Cambridge Arts Theatre in August.[citation needed]

A third UK tour occurred in 2018, ending in October in Poole.

Broadway (2017)Edit

The play opened on Broadway on 2 April 2017, with previews that began on 9 March 2017 at the Lyceum Theatre. The production featured the original London cast, and film director J. J. Abrams made his debut as a theatrical producer.[10] The production closed on 6 January 2019, after 745 regular performances and 27 previews.[11]

Australian tour (2017)Edit

A touring production began in Australia at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne from February 2017, before heading to Adelaide, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Perth.[12]

US Tour (2018)Edit

The play is touring North America, starting in September 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[13][11] The original tour cast included Brandon J. Ellis as Trevor, Evan Alexander Smith as Chris, Yaegel T. Welch as Jonathan, Peyton Crim as Robert, Scott Cote as Dennis, Jamie Ann Romero as Sandra, Ned Noyes as Max, and Angela Grovey as Annie. Also on the tour as understudies were Michael Thatcher, Sid Solomon, Blair Baker, and Jacqueline Jarrold.

Off-Broadway (2019)Edit

The Broadway production transferred Off-Broadway to New World Stages on 11 February 2019.[14]

TV specialsEdit

The Goes Wrong Show
Created byHenry Lewis
Jonathan Sayer
Henry Shields
Directed byMartin Dennis
StarringHenry Shields
Henry Lewis
Jonathan Sayer
Bryony Corrigan
Dave Hearn
Nancy Zamit
Charlie Russell
Greg Tannahill
Chris Leask
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes6
Producer(s)Jim Poyser
Production company(s)Mischief Theatre Big Talk Productions
Original networkBBC One
Original release23rd December 2019
External links
Production website

Two television specials, an adaptation of Peter Pan Goes Wrong and a sequel titled A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong, aired on BBC One in December 2016 and 2017.[15][16]

A TV series, The Goes Wrong Show, followed in 2019.[17][18] In December 2019, a full series of "The Goes Wrong Show" was broadcast featuring 6 episodes[19][20][21] with the same cast as the other two TV specials. Each episode was said to have received an average of 2.2 million people watching it when broadcast. [22]

Following the success of the first series, the BBC commissioned a second series which is scheduled to air later in 2020.[23]

Series 1 (2019-2020)




Title Original Air Date
1 1 The Spirit of Christmas 23rd December 2019
Comedy series from the team behind The Play That Goes Wrong. Our players present the story of Santa and his elves attempting to bring happiness to a sad little girl and her constantly fighting parents. Can the magical toy machine restore her Christmas cheer? Or perhaps Mr Snowman and his enchanting dance? We’ll never know, as a surly Santa indulges in too much Christmas sherry and contrives to ruin everything. Crackers explode, an elf is trapped in a confined space, and the toy machine attempts to eat the snowman alive. Also, there are songs, and these don’t go well. [24]
2 2 The Pilot (not the pilot) 3rd January 2020
Comedy series from the team behind The Play That Goes Wrong. This week Cornley have chosen to put on a Second World War drama, rarely performed because of its historical inaccuracy and poor research. Director Chris plays Rufus Heal, a dashing pilot reduced to a desk job cracking German codes in a top secret Allied facility after losing his leg. He is assisted by uptight Englishwoman Valerie Sky and French codebreaker Camille, under the watchful eye of Wing Commander Wickham. They also find a part suitable for Dennis's dubious skills - a telegraph machine. Will they crack the code and unmask the spy in their midst in time to win the Vietnam war? Sadly for our gang, many disasters await - Rufus's ‘lost’ leg won’t behave itself, Camille’s grasp of French is sub-par, Hitler spends more time on set than planned, and Annie is forced to play the dastardly Wing Commander after Chris's father fails to show up. And the telegraph machine takes on a life of its own.[25]
3 3 A Trial to Watch 10th January 2020
A legal drama this week for our intrepid performers, with Dennis taking on a lead role due to a conversation with his grandmother that turned out to be legally binding. He plays unscrupulous defence lawyer Karl McKennon, taking on his ex-wife Becky as he defends an ex-cop accused of murdering his brother.

Cornley Dramatic Society’s designers have excelled themselves, constructing a number of split sets that are wheeled in and out to create the locations described in the brutal cross-examinations that take place in their meticulously recreated courtroom. Sadly, this turns out to be a terrible idea: sets are mismatched, wheeled off and on at life-threatening speeds, and the courtroom itself is a quarter the size it should have been.[26]

4 4 The Lodge 17th January 2020
Our gang present a 1960s-set horror this week, as the mysterious Albert Fortenoy welcomes a young family to his crumbling old house. What is the secret behind the death of Albert's late wife Vera? Who is the creepy vicar's daughter playing outside? A number of clever theatrical horror devices are used to create a creepy atmosphere and plenty of jump scares, and every single one manages to go horribly wrong. Worse, the designers have taken 'crumbling' to heart and the cast contrive to fall off, out of and through everything. A stairlift develops a life-threatening mind of its own, a talking deer head fails to understand its cues, and entire rooms seem to go missing. To cap it all, the play has been running short in rehearsals, and the only solution they can find involves adjectives.[27]
5 5 Harper's Locket 24th January 2020
This week the gang turn their attentions to a period romance, a classic tale of family, duty and love across the class divide. A beautiful set has been built to replicate a grand country home, soon to be rocked by a literal and metaphorical storm. Sadly, the literal storm involves a water effect that threatens to flood the set, though that’s the least of their worries, as a horse turns out to be more of a danger to body parts than expected, gunshot effects occur seemingly at random and a ceiling fan threatens to decapitate a table of diners. Oh, and a cat gets stuck in a piano. [28]
6 6 90 Degrees 31st January 2020
This week’s show is a family saga of lust and betrayal set in the American Deep South, as the children of Herb Burgess, the head of Burgess Fine Tea, gather to plan the division of the business after their father’s incipient demise. The show’s title refers to the heat in Tennessee, but a designer error means that one of the sets has been built at a literal ninety degrees to the vertical. Too expensive to rebuild, our gang decide to turn the cameras on their side and pretend that everything’s normal. Gravity, however, has other ideas, and when even getting in and out of chairs is potentially limb-threatening, you know things aren’t going well. That's not the only problem, however, as a remote-controlled dog falls victim to a spat between Chris and Robert, rogue jack-in-a-boxes crop up on set, and Herb’s bedroom has somehow ended up upside down.[29]

Roles and principal castsEdit


Character Original London and Broadway Cast
U.S. Tour
Chris Bean Henry Shields Evan Alexander Smith Matt Harrington
Robert Grove Henry Lewis Peyton Crim Brent Bateman
Jonathan Harris Greg Tannahill Yaegel T. Welch Chris Lanceley, Max FitzRoy-Stone
Sandra Wilkinson Charlie Russell Jamie Ann Romero Ashley Reyes, Maggie Weston
Max Bennett Dave Hearn Ned Noyes Matt Walker
Dennis Tyde Jonathan Sayer Scott Cote Bartley Booz
Annie Twilloil Nancy Zamit Angela Grovey Bianca Horn, Angela Grovey
Trevor Watson Rob Falconer Brandon J. Ellis Ryan Vincent Anderson, Jason Bowen


  • Chris Bean, plays Inspector Carter and serves as the show's director, set designer, costume designer, prop maker, box office manager, press & PR person, dramaturgy, voice coach, dialect coach, and fight choreographer and filled in for the role of Mr. Fitzroy during rehearsals
  • Jonathan Harris, plays Charles Haversham
  • Robert Grove, plays Thomas Colleymoore
  • Dennis Tyde, plays Perkins
  • Sandra Wilkinson, plays Florence Colleymoore
  • Max Bennett, plays both Cecil Haversham and Arthur the Gardener
  • Trevor Watson, the lighting and sound operator
  • Annie Twilloil, the stage manager

Awards and nominationsEdit

Original London productionEdit

Year Award ceremony Category Result
2014 WhatsOnStage Award Best New Comedy Won
2015 BroadwayWorld UK Award Best New Play Won
Laurence Olivier Award Best New Comedy Won

Original Broadway productionEdit

Year Award ceremony Category Nominee Result
2017 Tony Award Best Scenic Design of a Play Nigel Hook Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Scenic Design of a Play Won
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Set Design Nominated
Drama League Award Best Play Nominated

Off Broadway productionEdit

Year Award ceremony Category Nominee Result
2019 Lucille Lortel Awards Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Matt Walker Nominated


The Play That Goes Wrong received positive reviews. Tim Walker of The Telegraph gave it four out of five stars and called it "a great-looking, brilliantly performed piece".[33]

The Broadway production of The Play That Goes Wrong won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design in a Play.


The Play That Goes Wrong has been translated and licensed for productions in over 30 other countries, namely China, Hungary, Poland, Spain, Greece, Israel, Scandinavia, France, Italy, Iceland, Brazil, Germany, Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Turkey, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, South Africa, Slovenia, South Korea, Portugal (UAU), Croatia, Russia, India (Natak na Natak nu Natak by Sharman Joshi Productions) and the Czech Republic.[34]


  1. ^ "Best New Comedy". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  2. ^ "Home | Peter Pan Goes Wrong". Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  3. ^ "Peter Pan Goes Wrong". BBC One. BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  4. ^ "A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong". BBC One. BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  5. ^ Gans, Andrew (22 February 2019). "BBC Will Air 6-Part Series The Goes Wrong Show, Based on The Play That Goes Wrong". Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  6. ^ "BBC One - the Goes Wrong Show".
  7. ^ [1] tickets
  8. ^ Walker, Tim. " 'The Play That Goes Wrong', Duchess Theatre, review: 'delightful'" Telegraph, 18 September 2014
  9. ^ Shenton, Mark. " 'The Play That Goes Wrong' Review", retrieved 12 July 2018
  10. ^ " 'The Play That Goes Wrong' Opens on Broadway April 2" Playbill, 2 April 2017
  11. ^ a b "Crisis Averted! THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG Extends Through January 2019". BroadwayWorld. 11 July 2018.
  12. ^ Desk, BWW News. "THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG to Tour Australia". Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  13. ^ "Tour", retrieved 12 July 2018
  14. ^ The Play That Goes Wrong to Move off Broadway
  15. ^ "Peter Pan Goes Wrong". BBC One. BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  16. ^ "A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong". BBC One. BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  17. ^ Gans, Andrew (22 February 2019). "BBC Will Air 6-Part Series The Goes Wrong Show, Based on The Play That Goes Wrong". Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  18. ^ "BBC One - the Goes Wrong Show".
  19. ^ "The Goes Wrong Show - BBC1 Sitcom".
  20. ^ "The Goes Wrong Show".
  21. ^ Saunders, Emma (20 December 2019). "The Goes Wrong Show: When festive frolics go awry". BBC News.
  22. ^ Guide, British Comedy (14 February 2020). "The Goes Wrong Show gets second series". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  23. ^ "News: The Goes Wrong Show To Go Rong Again". Beyond The Joke. 14 February 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  24. ^ "BBC One - The Goes Wrong Show, Series 1, The Spirit of Christmas". BBC. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  25. ^ "BBC One - The Goes Wrong Show, Series 1, The Pilot (Not the Pilot)". BBC. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  26. ^ "BBC One - The Goes Wrong Show, Series 1, A Trial to Watch". BBC. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  27. ^ "BBC One - The Goes Wrong Show, Series 1, The Lodge". BBC. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  28. ^ "BBC One - The Goes Wrong Show, Series 1, Harper's Locket". BBC. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  29. ^ "BBC One - The Goes Wrong Show, Series 1, 90 Degrees". BBC. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  30. ^ "The Play That Goes Wrong Original Broadway Cast - 2017 Broadway".
  31. ^ Gans, Andrew (18 September 2018). "National Tour of The Play That Goes Wrong Launches September 18". Playbill. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  32. ^ "Off-Broadway Return of the Play That Goes Wrong Opens February 20 at New World Stages". 20 February 2019.
  33. ^ Walker, Tim (18 September 2014). "The Play That Goes Wrong, Duchess Theatre, review: 'delightful'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  34. ^ "West End Frame: Peter Pan Goes Wrong transferring to the West End whilst The Play That Goes Wrong extends booking period". Retrieved 28 October 2015.

External linksEdit