Developed by the minds behind The Play That Goes Wrong, The Goes Wrong Show is chaotic, farcical hilarity
Starring Henry Shields, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Dave Hearn, Charlie Russell, Bryony Corrigan, Nancy Zamit, Chris Leask, and Greg Tannahill
There’s something devilishly entertaining in watching other people fuck up isn’t there? It appeals to the innate schadenfreude lurking within us all, to see somebody else flounder. Like Jo Joyner’s infamous gaffe “How’s Adam” in Eastenders’ live episode back in 2015, looking out for mistakes can prove a delightfully diverting pastime. For those fans of live theatre, looking out for mistakes is often impossible unless comically large. Small mistakes happen on a daily basis and, consummate professionals that they are, these are largely covered for in the spirit of camaraderie.
The Goes Wrong Show comes from the minds behind acclaimed theatrical productions The Play That Goes Wrong, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery and Magic Goes Wrong. After adapting their show Peter Pan Goes Wrong for BBC’s 2016 festive season, featuring almost all of The Play That Goes Wrong‘s cast, 2017 saw A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong which in turn inspired BBC to commission a six-part first season of The Goes Wrong Show.
With another Christmas special and a second season under its belt, The Goes Wrong Show also features the (fictional) members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society who valiantly attempt to put on a series of live plays for television but tend to make myriad mistakes, whether that be with missed lines, broken props or faulty sets.
Each member of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society has a distinct role to play within the society, adding to a new layer of comedy when their real character shines through on stage. For example, there is the frequently put upon and highly frustrated director, Chris (Henry Shields), a serious actor who consistently tries to bring meaning to the ensuing lunacy. Typically, his foil is Robert (Henry Lewis), who seemingly makes blunders just to irritate Chris and also equates volume with acting talent. He proves especially petulant if Chris has a bigger part than him and will produce distractions to derail his performance.
Then there’s Dennis (Jonathan Sayer), who has incredible difficulty remembering lines and cues – all things expected of an actor, really. Max (Dave Hearn) is a sucker for milking performances for laughs, Sandra (Charlie Russell) is desperate for the audience’s approval and to appear sexy, Vanessa (Bryony Corrigan) who freezes when she needs to improvise, Annie (Nancy Zamit), an enthusiastic but untalented supporting member of the cast, Trevor (Chris Leask), the stage manager who always seems to be in the wrong place in the wrong time and Jonathan (Greg Tannahill), an actor whose part always seems to end up cut, for one contrivance or another.
From a theatrical background, the entire company works like a well-oiled machine, lurching from mistake to mistake with a high level of credibility. Even the most cynical will be able to suspend their disbelief at the convincing level that the performers throw themselves into the humour, especially the physical elements. Most of these errors come completely out of nowhere and result in much amusement, not to mention from watching the rest of the cast flounder as they attempt to act their way out of it.
It is also brilliantly written. Firstly, to write fictional plays with an actual plot in the first place, and then being able to toy with this material to create the litany of mistakes for the audience to enjoy. One Shakespearean episode, for example, mines much humour from characters accidentally bunging rhymes. Another has the conceit of a character ruining the punchline of their innuendos. Additionally, some episodes also incorporate the fictional character’s own personalities and conflicts within their acting performances. This creates amusing moments of these characters breaking character and interacting with each other normally and adds more layers and nuance to its own comedy.
From period romances, to a legal drama, to Shakespeare, to a drama showcase, Mischief Theatre truly demonstrates their comedic prowess and make each episode a wholly unique experience. A masterclass in exact timing and comedic commitment, The Goes Wrong Show is comic genius. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the first series is no longer available to watch on BBC iPlayer, but the second remains on the service in its entirety.
The Goes Wrong Show Series 2 is streaming now on BBC iPlayer