Steven Rostance talks to Frankly My Dear UK about his role in THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG and the success of the show

It’s fair to say it’s been a whirlwind few years for Mischief Theatre. Since their outing at The Old Red Lion Pub in Islington in 2012, their debut play THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG has gone from strength to strength, running an impressive four years in London’s West End as well as on Broadway.

To mark its continued success, THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG is heading out on a new UK tour, playing in 35 venues throughout 2018. Ahead of its week-long run at Manchester’s Opera House Donna Kelly from Frankly My Dear UK caught up with Steven Rostance to chat about the show and its success.

Rostance has been working with Mischief Theatre since 2016 when he joined as part of the cast of THE COMEDY ABOUT A BANK ROBBERY in London’s West End. More recently, he has been playing the role of Jonathan/Charles Haversham in THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG UK tour.

Frankly My Dear UK (FMD): Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Could you start by telling us a little bit about THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG? How would you describe the show to someone who hasn’t seen it?

Steven Rostance (SR): The idea is that we, as characters, are members of The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society. They are a university drama society who have inexplicitly given a load of money to put on this murder mystery with quite an elaborate set. They are not really best prepared for it so everything is kind of coming together at the last minute. The set is not quite built in the way that it is supposed to be and chaos ensues. As an audience, you watch these amateur actors try to get through this show whilst everything falls apart around them. Everyone gets a real joy in watching us struggle basically.

FMD: What was the audition process like for this show? Much of its success relies on teamwork? Did you all audition together?

SR: The first round of auditions were done individually but then there were two rounds of recalls where everybody was in groups and would read scenes together. It was much more about seeing how people work together and what the chemistry was like for certain characters. For the individual auditions, a lot of the emphasis was on clowning because it’s the relationship between the actors and the audience which is really important. A lot of the audition process was spent seeing how the actors played off the audience. The rest of the auditionees would be the audience and laugh along so it was about seeing how people respond to that.

FMD: You play Jonathan Harris who is playing Charles Haversham in the play and although you’re playing a dead body for most of the show, it is a very physically demanding role. How did you prepare for the role?

SR: I’m known in my cast as the ‘one man warmup’ because I spend quite a lot of my time backstage doing a lot of exercises and warming up. The thing with Jonathan is there are periods of intense, physical stunts and then long periods of inactivity. It’s quite busy at the beginning once I’ve stopped lying on the couch and then it’s really busy in the last 10 minutes when I come back so I have to do about three warmups. I do the main warmup with the rest of the cast at the start of the show and then I do two warmups during the show just to make sure my muscles aren’t going cold and I’m not risking injury. It’s a very physical role.


FMD: What makes THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG so funny is that is that fictional actors take their characters very seriously. Is it hard not to be taken in by humour of the piece? You must hear some funny laughs in the audience?

SR: We’ve certainly had funny laughs in the audience! What we always say is that while there are eight of us on stage, we really have two extra characters, one of which is the set, which obviously is a character in itself because of the amount that it contributes to the show, but the tenth character is the audience. For us, it’s like having one character in a play who hasn’t turned up to any of the rehearsals and is just there for the night of the performance, so like you say, you might hear a funny laugh or they might shout out. Different audiences react in different ways and that keeps its fresh. It makes it a different kind of show every night.

FMD: How about the other actors? Who makes you crack up most on stage? Is there someone who makes you break?

SR: The play kinds of gives us scope to play around with bits of the show but generally speaking, I’m usually OK. There are a few people who can set me off a little. They’ll do a slightly different facial expression that I won’t be expecting and it’ll set me off. But generally, we are pretty good at keeping it together.

FMD: Has anything “gone wrong” in the show that wasn’t intentional?

SR: Ha! Yes is the answer. There are so many moving parts to the show that its kind of inevitable. It’s quite rare where we get a show where absolutely nothing goes wrong – in the wrong way I mean. To be honest, most of the things that go wrong are the things that are supposed to make the show go wrong. So something that is supposed to fall off the wall won’t fall off the wall when it’s supposed to. It’s a bizarre situation where something that is supposed to go wrong, hasn’t gone wrong, so we end up doing the play that goes right for a bit. A mistake will happen that will make the show go right instead of wrong.

FMD: Since its debut, the show has quickly snowballed into an international sensation. Do you feel more pressure because of that?

SR: To be honest, we get a lot of people who have seen the show before because it’s been on tour a few times and it has been in the West End for four years now. To be honest, when we were in rehearsals, the way the show has been put together and refined over the years has kind of made it bulletproof in a way. We’ve been given such a strong foundation that it’s quite difficult for it not to be received well. I think that’s part of the reason it’s been so successful all over the world. It’s because of that really strong foundation and really strong structure. It sort of takes the pressure off you a little bit because you know that as long as you the gags and do them with the commitment you’re supposed to, you can’t go far wrong. It’s the play that’s difficult to go wrong [laughs].

FMD: What’s next for you?

SR: Who knows? One of the beauties of being on a long-term contract like this is that you don’t have to worry about that too much. There are always things you want to do but to honest, I’m having such a good time with Mischief. Having done this show and THE COMEDY ABOUT A BANK ROBBERY in the West End, I’d love to keep working with Mischief if they’ll have me. Their shows are so much fun to do and be a part of – it’s just a train I’d like to keep riding.

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG runs at Opera House, Manchester until 30 June 2018.