THERE is nothing wrong with The Play That Goes Wrong (TPTGW). It is simply awful... awfully good, that is. And the word is used advisedly, for witnessing the 110 minutes of shenanigans on stage one is indeed full of awe.

If you have never seen this award-winning comedy you have missed a treat. The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society knows its stuff and knocks the stuffing out of everything it touches. If you caught their televised plays, Peter Pan and A Christmas Carol (both of which went wrong) you will have some inkling of what’s in store. Yet seeing the drama of this production – Murder at Haversham Manor – unfurl live is even better.

From even before the curtain rises, the audience is invited by an unspoken pact to share the cast’s emotions as they endure the evening of triumph and disaster. There are so many visual gags, pratfalls and farcical episodes happening so fast that you dare not blink... and that is hard when you are crying with laughter.

Occasionally, there are moments of silence. Of realisation, of frozen panic, of wonderment... these are delicious for their slowness allowing us time to revel in the discomfiture before us. More often the action is frenzied, hysterical and hilarious and we struggle to keep up with it all (still not sure how Florence ended up in the grandfather clock towards the end).

The acting is supremely good. The comedy, for all its slapstick, relies on razor sharp timing and no one missed a beat. The set, by award-winning Nigel Hook, so integral to the plot, is also amazing – it acted superbly well with some magnetic charm, though was a little wooden in places.

TPTGW is remarkable. Life is too short and too dull not to see it.

  • Runs until Saturday.

The play currently touring the UK is at Newcastle Theatre Royal, July 2-7 and at Billingham Forum, September 17-22.

Dorothy Blundell