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Theatre / The Play That Goes Wrong

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"This set is a bloody death trap!"
Trevor, after suffering one too many Amusing Injuries

The Play That Goes Wrong is a play by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields. They are all part of the Mischief Theatre Company.

The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, riding high on their previous successful play performances (including James and the Peach, The Lion and the Wardrobe, and Cat), has been commissioned to perform The Murder at Haversham Manor, a 1920s murder mystery. However, as production starts, just about everything that can go wrong does. The comedy ranges through slapstick, forgotten and mispronounced lines, the set falling apart, and much more.

It was followed by two sequels, Peter Pan Goes Wrong and A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong, along with a BBC series, The Goes Wrong Show.

The Play That Goes Wrong contains examples of:

  • Acting for Two: In-universe example, as Max plays both Cecil and Arthur the gardener. Nonverbally lampshaded when Max grins at the audience the first time he appears as Arthur.
  • Acquired Error at the Printer: The advertising of the production is often badly installed and misspelt. The image on the program is off-centred and cut off by the border. The logo on the cast change notice is upside down. And in the Broadway Production, in the list of shows near the back of the Playbill, the whole advertisement is printed upside down. note 
  • All for Nothing: During the course of the show, various set pieces fall off the walls. They are reinstalled during the intermission only for all of the replaced set pieces to fall down almost as soon as the characters begin to speak.
  • All There in the Manual / All There in the Script: With the exception of Chris, and in one case where Robert screams out "Dennis" after causing a crash of props backstage, we never hear the names of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society members on stage, only the names of the murder mystery characters they're playing (aside from occasional ad-libs). However, the show program will more often than not indicate which society member is played by which real-life actor and, in some cases, include a fictional in-universe program telling us which society member is playing which murder mystery character.
  • Almost Kiss: Cecil (Max) and Florence (Sandra) get 4 of these in a row, as they want to keep their affair a secret from Thomas (Robert) and Perkins (Dennis) as they alternately barge in. The 4th time, however, Dennis misses his cue, so Max and Sandra have to follow through with kissing each other until he enters, much to Max's dismay.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Max really, really doesn't want to kiss Sandra. When Trevor ends up having to read Florence's lines, though, he's much more enthusiastic. On the other hand, Peter Pan Goes Wrong shows that Max has a crush on Sandra, which pushes him into Ambiguously Bi territory. By the time of A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong the two are officially engaged.
  • Amusing Injuries: A lot of the humour revolves around this trope.
  • Audience Participation: Before the play begins and during intermission, Trevor, Annie, and some other actors enter the stalls, looking for a dog that's supposed to accompany Max while he's playing Arthur. They talk with the audience in character while doing this- for example, if an audience member is eating a chocolate bar, they’ll advise them not to drop it in the event they find the dog (don’t worry- they never do). There are plenty of other opportunities too, although the director isn't happy about it- some theatergoers have even reported seeing Robert line up at the concession stand with them.
    Chris: This isn't a pantomime!
    Audience: Yes it is!
    Chris: No, no! We are not doing that!
  • Bad "Bad Acting": The cast of The Murder at Haversham Manor is equally split between Large Ham and this trope.
    • Enforced in Max's case, as when he comes on as Arthur, the script specifically calls for him to give the same performance he gave playing Cecil.
  • Bookcase Passage: Perkins hears Arthur knock at the door and elects to hide Florence behind the secret passageway Charles had built behind a bookcase to keep her out of harm's way. The problem is, Dennis accidentally gets himself stuck behind the bookcase and has to keep spinning it around like a revolving door to get back on stage — then Trevor ends up on stage and has to hide in the clock.
  • Bring the Anchor Along: During the climax, Dennis—who is playing Perkins—is handcuffed to the chaise-longue. He's supposed to be released when Perkins' innocence is established, but this being a play that goes wrong, they've managed to lose the handcuff keys. Dennis struggles through the rest of the show carrying the chaise-longue.
  • Broken Record: When Dennis ends up repeating an earlier line, the other characters begin to loop their dialogue (causing Robert to repeatedly alternate between drinking and spitting out White Spirit). As the script keeps looping, the actors repeat their lines faster and faster.
    Robert: But who could’ve killed him?
    Dennis: That’s a good question, Mr. Colleymoore.
    Chris: And one we need to answer quickly if we’re going to get out of this house alive.
    Annie: Oh, inspector, you’ve given me a chill!
    Chris: Perkins, pour us all another Scotch.
    Dennis: Of course, inspector. (pours "scotch")
    Chris: Now, tell me, is there anyone else that you know of in the grounds other than the four of us?
    Annie: Not a soul.
    Robert: The gardener left at six, the only other member of staff is Perkins. (drinks and spits out the white spirit) Good God, I needed that.
    Chris: Does anyone else have access to the grounds?
    Annie: No one, inspector.
    Dennis: I’m the only one with the master key, and as instructed, I locked and bolted the doors, as soon as you arrived.
    Robert: Then who could have killed him?
    (The script goes around in a loop.)
    Dennis: That’s a good question, Mr. Colleymoore.
    Chris: And one we need to answer quickly if we’re going to get out of this house alive.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: At one point Annie drops her script and the pages go flying. When she picks them back up, she gets them in the wrong order, which leads to this gem:
    Annie/Florence: Kiss me a thousand times, I'm yours!
    Robert/Thomas: [looking pained] Of course, Florence, that's what brothers are for.
  • Brick Joke: Various actions often have hilarious repercussions later in the production. Example: Max pulls a large book out from behind a pillow on the chaise-longue and shoves it underneath the furniture so that he can sit comfortably; half an act later, Chris panics when he can't find it, and breaks the fourth wall to scream at the audience members trying to help.
  • The Butler Did It: Inspector Carter (Chris) tries to invoke this trope, pinning Charles' (Jonathan) murder on Perkins (Dennis) when he learns the latter's set to inherit Haversham Manor and all its contents. Pity Jonathan already spoiled The Reveal an act earlier.
  • By Wall That Is Holey: When the entire set collapses in the final act, the back flat falls around Annie, leaving her standing in the gap of the window.
  • Cat Fight: One erupts between Sandra and Annie when Sandra returns midway through Act 2 and attempts to take her part back from Annie.
  • Closet Shuffle: Used with a giant clock used to store actors and crew inside.
  • Closest Thing We Got: It should come as no surprise that the troupe doesn't appear to have any understudies, so when Sandra is knocked out Annie is forced into her costume and shoved on stage to cover for her. And when Annie gets into a fight with Sandra when she recovers, Trevor is brought in to replace her in turn.
  • Colorblind Confusion: This apparently occurred with the drama society's past production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, as they learned too late that their costume designer was colorblind. Some productions substitute The Wizard Of Oz instead, noting the brown slippers on the brown brick road headed for the Brown City.
  • Copiously Credited Creator: Chris, the star of the show, fills many of the credits of the In-Universe program for The Murder at Haversham Manor.
  • Couldn't Find a Lighter: Dennis, as Perkins, accidentally causes a small fire when he throws a lit cigarette into a coal scuttle full of scotch. Shortly after, Robert tries to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but it already went out on its own, so he only really ends up spraying Dennis with it as a result.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Due to various props being misplaced, Chris (as the Inspector) is unable to find his notebook or pen and is reduced to attempting to take notes on a vase with a key.
  • Cue Card Pause: When Annie gets shoved on to stage to take Sandra's place, she is reading her lines from the script, leading to such readings as:
    Annie: I know I was engaged to Charles, but Cecil was mine and...
    (Silence. Chris turns the page in Annie's script.)
    Annie: (intrigued)...I was his?
  • Cultural Translation: Various elements of the show were altered for US productions compared to the UK.
    • Cornley Polytechnic was renamed to Cornley University.
    • During his opening speech on the West End, Chris notes there was a box-office mix-up with neighboring show Mamma Mia!. In New York, this was changed to Hamilton.
    • The White Spirit is referred to as Paint Thinner. note 
    • Cecil's (Max) interrogation scene had Chris use the figure of speech "He looks the spit of Charles", referring to a painting of Charles' and Cecil's late father above the fireplacenote . This was changed to "He was the spitting image of Charles".
    • At the end of Act 1, Annie would shout "Intermission!" as opposed to "Interval!"
    • Before Act 2, Chris came onstage to warn audience members who ate one of the raspberry-ripple flavored ice creams available during the interval to seek medical help. This was changed to salted nuts.
  • Déjà Vu: During the Act 1 Finale, due to a similar line cue, Dennis ends up sending the cast circling around a scene over and over again by repeating an earlier line, something Chris then Robert pick up on. To his credit, Dennis eventually does too, but just can't remember the next line, which means poor Robert ends up having to drink White Spirit over and over again.
  • Delayed Reaction: Invoked when Florence (Sandra) is supposed to Bitch Slap Inspector Carter (Chris), but gets mixed up with cues and starts reciting her lines too early.
    Sandra: I wasn't having an affair! Don't raise your voice to me, Inspector!
    Sandra: (slaps Chris) Don't tell me to calm down!
    Chris: Calm down, Miss Colleymore! (reacts to slap)
  • Detachable Doorknob: Once the study floor becomes unstable due to Max knocking out the support beam, Chris and Robert attempt to leave said study through the upstairs door... only for the doorknob to come off in Robert's hand.
  • Detective Mole: Inspector Carter is revealed to be this in the Play Within a Play. Of course, by the time this revelation is made, absolutely no one cares about the plot of the play anymore. (It also doesn't help that Jonathan has jumped his cue to rush onstage with a gun yelling "Not so fast, Inspector!" twice by this point, which kind of spoils The Reveal.)
    • In the Broadway production, the audience tends to cheer this reveal anyway, much to Jonathan's surprise and relief.
  • Directed by Cast Member: In-Universe example, as Chris directed the Show Within a Show and starred as Inspector Carter.
  • Disappearing Box: This trick is performed in reverse when Sandra manages to appear inside the grandfather clock after having stuck her arm through the door only seconds beforehand.
  • The Door Slams You: Happens to Sandra, the actress playing the Femme Fatale (and her impromptu replacements).
  • Dramatic Irony: In-Universe. The characters within the story have to act like nothing is wrong, but both the actors and the audience are aware of the various screw-ups that have unfolded.
  • Duct Tape for Everything:
    • Before the show begins, Annie attempts to reinstall a mantelpiece by gaffer-taping it to the fireplace. It falls off right as Trevor begins his "No Talking or Phones" Warning.
      • This, too, leads to consequences when the script calls for props to be placed upon the mantelpiece, so Annie has to stick her head and hands out of some holes she makes in the mantle to hold the props.
    • She later uses it to tie-up Sandra.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Given this is the first of the "Goes Wrong..." series it's bound to apply
    • Dennis doesn't have as much trouble with his lines as he would in later productions. He's also appropriately mortified by his own failings, rather than unwittingly dense as he later becomes, and often acts more along the lines of the Straight Man to his cast-mates' wacky shenanigans, whereas later he would become the Cloudcuckoolander.
    • Annie, who in this show is the stage manager and Sandra's reluctant understudy, becomes an actress in her own right starting with Peter Pan Goes Wrong.
      • However, this can actually be regarded as Character Development, as Annie grows to enjoy acting more throughout the night, to the point that she violently battles Sandra to keep the role. It's not hard to imagine after this play was finished, she decided she wanted to act from that point onwards.
      • Likewise, she's far more stilted in her performance, having to rely on a script (then again, she was forced into the role of Florence at the last minute), and much more confrontational judging from her fight with Sandra. By the time she's become an actual actress, she is easily one of the better ones in the company and far kinder, often helping other actors through their flubs.
    • Max is highly uncomfortable playing intimate scenes with Sandra and seems far more interested in Trevor. By Peter Pan Goes Wrong, he's fallen for Sandra and never shows any hints of being gay.
    • Robert is far less able at his role, constantly forgetting his lines, and at one point forgetting to stay in character.
  • Easter Egg:
    • When Annie drops her script and sends the pages flying, some of them may land in the stalls. Audience members who pick them up will see that they have parts of the "goes right" version of the play printed on them.
    • If you look on the backs of some of the crew members' shirts, instead of saying "The Murder at Haversham Manor", they may instead display one of the other shows Chris mentions in his opening speech (most notably, Annie wears a shirt from the CPDS' production of Cat: The Musical).
  • Elevator Failure: The elevator begins to show its failings when the door refuses to go all the way to the top for Chris in Act 1, and then violently throws him out when returning down. In Act 2, it crashes with Robert still inside, leading the other actors still on the lower floor to help him climb up.
  • Enter Stage Window: At the beginning of the play, Robert and Dennis are supposed to enter through the chamber's door, but due to the door being locked, they eventually give up and enter from the wings of the stage. When Dennis is supposed to exit the scene, he sneaks off around the set. Sandra chooses to pull the window open for her entrance, and the crew forces the door open for Max's, causing them all to topple out onto the stage.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: For obvious reasons, the events of the play unfold in real-time.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a play, and it goes wrong.
  • Excuse Plot: The Murder at Haversham Manor, from what we can tell, appears to simply be a slightly hoary old murder mystery, but it's only really there to facilitate the real plot of exact how the show will go wrong.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Winston, Arthur's guard dog, gets rather jumpy around Inspector Carter. Or at least he's supposed to, if it weren't for the fact that he went missing before the show started.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: The Show Within a Show breaks rules 1 and 7, as the audience is allowed to follow the killer's thoughts for one scene, and the detective himself committed the crime. Of course, the murder mystery isn’t the point of the show anyway- the consistently good slapstick is.
  • Fast-Forward Gag: At the tail-end of one show, Chris celebrates the 3000th performance of The Play That Goes Wrong at the Duchess Theatre — only Annie reveals it was actually the 2999th. Chris decides not to let the opportunity go to waste and gives the audience a sped-up 3000th performance anyway, consisting of the actors reciting only the key beats of the play interspersed with dramatic stings.
    Chris: Good evening, everybody!
    Dennis: Sir, he's dead!
    Sandra: This is more than my nerves can take! I'm becoming hysterical!
    Max: Bravo, inspector! You've discovered Florence and I, but it proves nothing!
    (Trevor provides ten clock chimes)
    Annie: Cecil. No. No. No.
    Robert: ...line?
    Jonathan: Not so fast, inspector!
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Most of the set comes apart at the seams, but the play keeps this particular trick in reserve until the last five seconds, with the lights going out mid-fall.
  • The Food Poisoning Incident: During the intro for Act 2, Chris, in hopes of avoiding this, advises audience members who ate one of the raspberry-ripple flavored ice creams (salted nuts in US productions), to quickly seek medical attention. Upon hearing this, Trevor, who just ate some of the snack Chris mentioned, immediately throws up.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • While they examine Charles Haversham's body, the characters all comment on how lifelike it seems, foreshadowing the fact that he is not, in fact, dead. Pity Jonathan gets a coughing fit from the powder Dennis just dropped on him.
    • The programs for the West End, Broadway, and off-Broadway productions (plus tours based on them) include a note from Chris, stating he thinks the production will "bring the house down." Sure enough, the set collapses near the end of the play.
  • Gender Flip: Some productions (i.e. the Off-Broadway production) will do this whenever a female understudy needs to take over a male role, or vice versa. And while Chris and Max's names are already gender-neutral, other society members may see their name changed when played by an actor of the opposite sex; for example, Trevor would become Tess, and Dennis would become Denise.
  • Get It Over With: By the end of the show, Trevor's so fed up with the production that when Robert forgets his character's dying Last Words, he yells "Just die already!"
    Robert: Just die alr- how dare you!
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Sandra spends much of Act 2 running around in a shift and printed panties, after Annie is given her dress and her role.
  • Groin Attack: Robert gets punched in the balls while trying to break up a fight between Sandra and Annie.
  • Heroic BSoD: Chris/the Inspector has this when he's unable to find the prop he needs, Max having moved it after accidentally sitting on it. He repeats "a ledger?" over and over as he looks for until he's screaming, then curls up on the couch sobbing. The audience pointing out said ledger is sticking out from under the couch does not help. (Especially since it's technically a chaise-longue.)
  • Human Notepad: Dennis, to help with his lines, has written some of his cues on his hands and forearms. Problem is he doesn't always know how to pronounce them.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Jonathan twice jumps his entrance cue (both times in the wrong act) to rush onstage with a gun yelling, "Not so fast, Inspector!", both times because someone on stage said the line "What a devil of a situation this is!".
  • Insistent Terminology: When the audience points out that the ledger is under the couch, Chris will angrily (and tearfully) say that it's a chaise-longue.
    Chris: [in the Broadway production] Bloody Americans!
  • Irony: A lot of the dialogue becomes humorous when the condition of the actor contrasts with what ends up being said.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: Act 2 begins with Trevor broadcasting some disparaging remarks about the play across the theatre before Chris desperately signals him to turn off his headset.
    Trevor: Nah, it ain't going very well, actually. [beat, laughs] Yeah, she's still unconscious, and we still haven't found the dog.
  • Lady Not-Appearing-in-This-Game: On the posters outside of the theatre in the Broadway production, one includes headshots of the cast and one of Leonardo DiCaprio. A caption on the image reads "Not appearing Monday through Sunday". note  On the West End it is Tom Cruise.
  • Large Ham: Half the cast. The other half favour Bad "Bad Acting".
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: For all the interactions with the audience, including questions from the crew on if they've seen Winston or Trevor's Duran Duran box-set, Chris's angry argument with some rowdier members of the audience, Max's mugging, Annie pulling an audience member on stage to help her with fixing the fireplace's mantlepiece, and Robert getting in line with the rest of the audience for concessions during intermission, all of this is still being done by the "Mischief Theatre'' company note  in-character as the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, who never actually break character for the duration of the play.
  • The Living Dead: In-universe, Jonathan, as the deceased Charles Haversham, gets into a sneezing fit after powder is dropped on him, gets to be horrified as he is rolled off of the chaise longue and falls face-first to the floor, and then has to walk off-stage when the stretcher fails and the actors involve merely mime taking the body offstage. Of course, since the character is meant to actually be alive...
  • Madness Mantra: A misplaced prop becomes this, as Chris's attempt to locate a ledger at a climactic moment results in him screaming "A ledger!? A ledger!!??" with increasing hysteria before eventually collapsing into a sobbing mess.
  • Malaproper: Dennis — who plays Perkins the Butler — has taken the time to write down the harder words on his hand, but doesn't leave himself with any guides on how to pronounce them.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: Some of the cast have a tendency to indulge in this, with Max and Sandra being the worst offenders.
  • Miming the Cues / Non-Verbal Miscommunication: When Annie as Florence loses her script pages, Dennis tries to act out the response she needs to give:
    Dennis/Perkins: Where were you when the murder was committed?
    (He alternates between pointing down and pretending to drink tea.)
    Annie/Florence: [misinterpreting] I was on the floor with a moustache.
    Robert/Thomas: That makes perfect sense; so was I.
  • Minimalist Cast:
    • The Play Within a Play only features seven characters, two of which are played by the same actor.
    • As Chris notes before the show starts, the drama society's limited numbers meant previous shows of theirs had to be form-fitted around this trope, leading to such productions as Two Sisters, The Lion and the Wardrobe, and Cat.
  • Newhart Phonecall / Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: Thomas (Robert) fields 3 of these during the show: first, when he's telling the operator to send Inspector Carter to the manor; second, when he's fielding a call from his accountant regarding missing funds from his private savings note ; third, when said accountants call him back to report on a transaction they were able to trace. note 
  • Never Work with Children or Animalsinvoked: It's revealed before the show starts and during the intermission that the dog brought on to play Winston has gone missing, as the cast searches for the dog while asking the audience if they’ve seen them. When the time comes for Arthur (Max) to enter with Winston, he's forced to hold an empty leash and make dog noises to make up for it (though he doesn't seem to mind).
  • No Budget: Some of the drama society's previous in-universe productions had to be downscaled due to this, such as their production of James and the Peach.note 
  • Noodle Incident: The various previous plays that are mentioned, though the titles give us some idea what had occurred.
  • "No Talking or Phones" Warning: Trevor gives the warning and uses the opportunity to ask the audience for help finding a missing Duran Duran CD.
  • Overly Long Gag: The climax of Act 1 sees Dennis constantly repeating an earlier line; thus he, Chris, Annie, and Robert are forced to repeat a certain section of the play until Dennis finally remembers the correct line. This goes on for several minutes and leads to Robert having to drink from the container of white spirit multiple times. Towards the end, they begin to speed it up to minimize the time until Dennis finally remembers the right line.
  • Play Within a Play: The Murder at Haversham Manor.
  • Product Placement: After the set collapses completely in the climax of the show, we see that the tapestry hung behind it in an attempt to provide a snowy background was, in fact, a Coca-Cola ad with Santa Claus.
  • Pushed in Front of the Audience: When Sandra gets knocked out by the set door, Annie the stage manager is hurriedly dressed in Sandra's costume and shoved out on stage with a script in her hand. And when she gets knocked out, Trevor the effects manager is press-ganged into the role.
  • Quote Mine: The in-universe program for the London production features an ad page showcasing the drama society's upcoming productions, as well as quotes from reviews for their recent production of Hamlet. The first 2 of said quotes invoke this trope:
"There's no question this was a production... from beginning to end"
The Cornley Student Gazette
"In all my years as a reviewer I've never seen anything else like it"
The Cornley Coronet
  • Rake Take: Some floorboards are reinstalled before the show starts; Max steps on one of them, hitting him in the face.
  • Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud:
    • When the female lead Sandra is knocked out, the stage manager Annie is shoved on to the stage with a copy of the script to take her place. Needless to say, she starts reading the stage directions out loud ("How will I go on? Sobs.") and ends Act 1 by declaring the evening "a disaster! Blackout! Intermission! ...oh."
    • Dennis declares that his character Perkins is going to "my quarters, exits" at one point, and then stands there until his error occurs to him.
  • Revenge: After Dennis's multiple mistakes ended with him having to down nearly an entire bottle of White Spirit, Robert furiously throws a glass of White Spirit in Dennis's face...which immediately gets him to remember his next line.
    Robert: (after splashing Dennis with White Spirit) "GOOD GOD, I NEEDED THAT!!!"
  • Rough Overalls: Annie, the drama society's stage manager, set builder, and set painter, wears a pair of blue overalls with paint stains.
  • Running Gag: Plenty, including Trevor's Duran Duran CD, the dog that was supposed to be used in the production being missing, the actors accidentally drinking white spirit (and subsequently performing a Spit Take), Max crashing into the support beam, various set pieces falling down, Max grinning out at the audience, Dennis mispronouncing words, and the actors playing the character of Florence getting knocked unconscious by set-pieces (usually the door).
  • Rule of Three:
    • The Door Slams You gag. The first time, it knocks out Sandra. The second time, it gets Annie. The third time, Annie catches it and slams it back shut (with an angry Sandra behind it, although she mysteriously pops out of the locked clock seconds later).
    • Thomas (Robert) keeps asking Trevor for a line, and Trevor keeps not responding and saying something else snarky or off-hand instead. The first two times, Thomas repeats the snark word-for-word before realizing it's not his line; the third time he cottons on first.
    • The Reveal of The Murder at Haversham Manor is inadvertently ruined twice by Jonathan rushing on stage shouting "Not so fast, Inspector!" before his cue. He gets it right the third time around.
    • Trevor starts the show asking if anyone's seen a Duran Duran CD. He later accidentally plays the music as a cue, letting the audience know he found it. At the play's climax, when everyone is at their wit's end, Robert pulls the evidence that incriminates Inspector Carter out of a handbag, including "One ticket to Duran Duran!" Robert holds up the CD case as everyone looks up at a facepalming Trevor.
  • Rummage Fail:
    • When he needs to grab a bottle of scotch from the study's drinks cabinet, Perkins (Dennis) is supposed to pull out an empty bottle that Charles (Jonathan) finished off... but the bottle is full, so Dennis has to empty it himself. He's then told there's another bottle in the cabinet, and announces that the second bottle is full... while holding up the empty bottle he should've picked up the first time.
    • While inspecting Charles' (Jonathan) body, Inspector Carter (Chris) instructs Thomas (Robert) to check the former's pockets for evidence. Unfortunately, Robert can't find the letter he needs in Jonathan's trouser pocket, so the latter has to pull it out of his inside jacket pocket and hand it to Robert.
      Robert: (ad libs) Thank you, Charles.
    • During The Summation, in addition to a cyanide bottle and a bundle of bank notes, Thomas (Robert) is supposed to pull out from Inspector Carter's (Chris) attaché case a train ticket that the latter purchased with the former's money... only to instead pull out the Duran Duran CD case that Trevor was looking for.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: When Max and Robert's swords break during their fight scene, they're forced to make sword-clanging noises as they mime out the rest of the fight.
  • Slapstick: Much of the humor derives from the characters, both male and female, getting beat up by the set (and each other).
  • Sounding It Out: Twice; when Cecil (Max) is reading Charles' (Jonathan) diary, and when Inspector Carter (Chris) reads Charles' will. In the second case, he can't remove the ribbon sealing the document shut, so he has to pretend to read from the closed will.
    • In some performances, the diary will be sealed as well, as Annie attempted to stand it upright on an unstable mantelpiece with gaffer tape.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Noises Off.
  • Spit Take: The first time one of the cast takes a swig of white spirit instead of whiskey (and multiple times thereafter).
  • Stunt Castinginvoked: Parodied and subverted in the Broadway production's window advertising. In addition to the Lady Not-Appearing-in-This-Game example above, one of the advertisements reads:
Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett,
Academy Award winner J. K. Simmons,
Academy Award nominee Harrison Ford,
Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Will Ferrell, and
Emmy and Tony winner Neil Patrick Harris...

...have all seen The Play That Goes Wrong.
  • Stylistic Suck: Zig-Zagged. While the acting and the sets are problematic, the plot actually makes cohesive sense. Granted, it's still an intentionally mediocre piece of writing, but its quality is never really Played for Laughs.
  • The Show Must Go On: Say what you will about the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, they never give up and will finish their play even if everything is standing against them.
  • The Show Must Go Wrong: The play is built entirely around this; according to what we hear about the in-universe group, their shows are generally absolute catastrophes. Bad "Bad Acting", mislaid props, miscued sound effects and actors coming on too early are only the start of it. And if Chris (the Director and the Inspector) is to be believed, this isn't the worst it's ever been.
  • Show Within a Show: In its truest sense, the play is about a theatre troupe, each their own characters with their own aspirations and personalities, who act out another play (and constantly make a mess of everything).
  • Tap on the Head: Sandra, Annie, Trevor and the two crew members who are knocked unconscious at various points seem to recover just fine.
  • Title Drop: Jonathan caps off The Summation at the end by saying "let us hope we never again see...a murder at Haversham Manor", which doubles as a Self-Deprecation gag. Of course, this can barely be heard over the other actors' bickering, the set completing its collapse, and Trevor playing Duran Duran.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: In-universe example with Chris; the cast list implies that he's the only one with theater experience, and it's clear that he's desperately trying to salvage the play.
  • Trash the Set: The set slowly falls apart over the course of the show, with the whole thing finally collapsing during the climax. This escalates throughout the show—at first, it's only the decorations, but then the stage parts begin to fall apart. In fact, after intermission, they attempt to fix the damage, only for the decorations to fall right back off again, at which point they give up.
  • Troll: After accidentally cutting off Denis's line with the clock-chime effect by accident, Trevor after apologizing, finding the incident amusing, decides to mess with Dennis by doing it purposely a few more times, before a furious Chris burst on stage ordering him to stop.
  • Troubled Production: The Musical.
  • The Vamp: The character of Florence; Sandra turns it up to eleven by playing even her "hysterical episodes" seductively. It goes even past that when Trevor, forced to read Florence's lines, starts fake-grinding on the Inspector as a "hysterical episode".
  • Visual Pun: When Thomas is asked to remove the fainted Florence's hands from her face, Florence is currently represented by a giant clock (because Sandra is trapped inside it). Robert pulls the hour and minute hands off the face of the clock.
  • Walking Spoiler: While portraying the murder victim's corpse, Jonathan quite literally proves to be a walking spoiler when he rushes onstage with a rifle declaring "Not so fast, Inspector!" well before he's scripted to do so (read: an entire act before he's supposed to). And just in case the audience forgets the twists of both his character's survival and the inspector's villainy, he jumps his cue a second time later on (still in the first act).
  • Wrong Song Gag: At the beginning of the play, the cast asks audience members to let them know if they find a missing Duran Duran CD. Later on, "Girls on Film" begins to play instead of a dramatic musical spike.
    Trevor: Found the Duran Duran, carry on.