The accident-prone Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society return to Salford’s The Lowry with hilarious consequences
The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society is finally able to tour with their production of ‘Murder at Haversham Manor’, but not everything is going according to plan…
Before the production has even formally begun, one of the actors is missing and audience participation is encouraged to track him down. Between searching for an imaginary French Bulldog, and pretending not to notice the argument breaking out between the stage manager and hilariously cheeky lighting operator Trevor (Gabriel Paul), the light-hearted tone for the evening has been set, and the audience is immediately put at ease.
No sooner than the lights rise, the audience breaks out into rapturous laughter as Jonathan Harris’ (Sean Carey) attempts to take his place on stage. Never has a corpse caused such hilarity, with the first round of applause of the night following shortly after, praising his energetic and hilarious physical portrayal of a cadaver.
The laughter doesn’t stop from there, with the script often taking a back hand to the physical gaffes and impeccably timed staging errors. Credit must be given to set designer Nigel Hook, who’s gradually deteriorating set is undisputedly a character in itself.
With constant ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ gags coming thick and fast, and the characters expertly pained faces expressing comical horror at the gradual deterioration of decorum, the audience guffaw their way through the first act. The only break comes in the form of Chris Bean (Tom Bulpett) breaking the fourth wall to berate the audience in a panto-esque call and response, that was drawn out for just a moment too long.
At the second act starts, you’d be forgiven for wondering how much more the destroyed set and ever amusing cast has to offer, but you won’t be disappointed as the rest of the performance is unveiled as a descent into chaos.
Becoming increasingly farcical, within a few minutes of the lights going down, Florence Colleymoore is being portrayed by a grandfather clock, after the first three actors had been knocked unconscious in quick succession, and the jokes come so often that the audience barely has time to laugh. For a short while, it is apparent that although the comedic attempts are happening simultaneously from various points on stage, the acting becomes a little too slapstick, less of a play and more like a well-choreographed wrestling match, and the laughter dies down.
With a much needed short moment of calm allowing the audience to reset, it isn’t long before the audeince is back chuckling as the cast returns to delivering their timely quips and physical humour, ending the performance on a high.
After a standing ovation, Tom Bulpett’s addresses the audience, thanking them on behalf of the company and the industry for returning to the theatre after such a prolonged absence, and what a joyful return to the theatre it was.
A delight suitable for family members of most ages.
Rebecca Baines is a charity worker from Manchester, with a lifelong love of theatre and music. Having trained as a classical musician and actress, performing in venues including the Notre Dame and St Marks Basilica, Rebecca is now more likely to be found in the audience with her daughter.