“Already tried. Already failed. It doesn’t matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. ” These words of Samuel Beckett (Cap for the worst, 1991) come to mind in the face of the sublime catastrophes at work in The Goes Wrong Show. Behind these six hilarious episodes aired on the BBC (available now on Amazon Prime) is the Mischief Theater led by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields and Jonathan Sayer: a British troupe recognized in 2012 for their play The Play That Goes Wrong, where calamitous actors try as best they can to play a detective drama despite the incessant incidents due to the setting which crumbles before their eyes.
After several successful variations of the principle on the boards (including one Peter Pan), in London and Broadway, here is the series, each episode of which can be enjoyed independently. Each time, the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society tries out a different genre (melodrama in costumes, espionage, horror, trial …) with the same results: actresses and actors delighting to play deliberately badly (the one cabotine to death , even when he is playing a corpse; another out of tune recalls his partner’s lines), fighting like Sisyphus against badly worn props with devilish precision. How to slam the doors at Feydeau if they do not open? The Goes Wrong Show pushes this principle to the extreme. In “The Cottage”, Henry Lewis is the thunderous actor Robert Groves, who probably dreams of doing Falstaff but ends up as Santa Claus in the episode “The Spirit of Christmas”. In the skin of a villain caricature, the character seeks to make a dramatic stage exit with an ominous laugh. Except that all the exits are blocked. Here he is condemned to stretch out laughing the time (long) to find the exit. Or, better find, in the aptly named “90 degrees”, which sees the troop having to manage to save face, hung like mountaineers on furniture fixed on a wall, reciting the text despite the laws of gravity. Here we have a famous British vein of embarrassing TV comedy (I’m Alan Partridge, The Office), with its frustrated actors struggling to keep the show going. With the extra soul, thrill of the scene (the episodes are recorded in public) and a chaos mechanics precise in every detail, which has nothing to envy to the Peter Sellers demolisher in The Party of Blake Edwards or of keeping Buster Keaton against disaster in his films. We are amazed by the technique, the stunts (here, you have to know how to throw yourself into the void or avoid being beheaded by a fan) and the balance achieved between a very childish enthusiasm and a Brechtian approach. Or how to show a theater that looks like a school performance at the end of the year (with a little more resources) but with a brain reading, aware of the artifices of the boards (we often play here with the “Chekhov rifle”) . Between the two, we laugh heartily in front of the millimeter idiocy, the burlesque energy of this troupe which, in its falls, grimaces and gesticulations, points to a more than familiar anguish on stage and in confined life: how to exist between four walls.
The Goes Wrong Show on Amazon Prime.