The Plagiarised Play

Currently running at the Duchess Theatre is a play in which the protagonists attempt to stage a play in which everything goes wrong. Lauded with praise The Play That Goes Wrong was the 2015 Olivier Award Winner for Best New Comedy and called a ‘gut-busting hit’ by the New York Times. It is only included here as it was plagiarised from the far more impressive, Intimate Review which on 11th March 1930 opened and closed at the Duchess Theatre on the same night.

[T]he curtain rose on the Intimate Review revealing a stage so cluttered with props there was hardly room for the actors. Pickford’s should have been employed for scene changes as each one took 20 minutes. The audience were soon enjoying the unintended comedy as every time the curtain parted squads of scene-shifters would stare out at the audience, frozen with fear like rabbits caught in a car’s headlights.

Miss Florence McHugh’s romantic set piece ‘Hawaiian Idyll’ sung while pacing a sandy beach with a blue backdrop representing a Pacific sky was slightly marred by the sight of two scene-shifters arguing behind the transparent backcloth.

The narrative was taking so long to unfold the producers decided to edit the penultimate scenes and move on to the grand finale. Greek nymphs entered stage left each wearing a large cumbersome headdress, two of which then proceeded to become entangled and while Miss McHugh valiantly sung the closing song as the remaining nymphs tried in vain to disentangle their two hapless companions.

According to the Manchester Guardian’s critic who having enjoyed the unintended comedy immensely wrote:

Spectators returned to their seats to be in at the death, to laugh with the conquered, not at them, and give a sporting cheer. Thumbs up or thumbs down? Who cares? Our good humour is restored. The show takes its final breath and, with a death rattle, expires. Enough!

Everyone involved agreed and issued a brief statement apologising for the debacle:

Everyone concerned was so much in agreement with the criticism of last night’s performance that its closure was decided upon promptly. In regard to the accommodation on stage there was certainly an appearance of overcrowding.

They promised to re-open later in the year, but it would be another 84 years before another hapless production was shown at this theatre to a West End audience.

As a footnote: The accolade of the world’s shortest review which was staged at the Duchess Theatre, was the show A Good Time receiving the one-word critique: “No”.

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