“Betrayed by my brother, cuckolded by my fiancé and nearly murdered by my oldest friend, let us hope we never again see a murder at the Haversham manor.”
On 25th October, Kalamanch, the official theater club of Manipal Institute of Communication presented their semester production—‘The Play That Goes Wrong.’ Although a cyclone raged that day, the audience had arrived with utmost zeal and enthusiasm, packing the Gangubai Hangal Auditorium.
‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ is the brainchild of Henry Lewis, Jonathon Sayer and Henry Shields of the British Mischief Theatre Company. What makes this production so unique is the play within this play—‘Murder at Haversham Manor’. The Murder at the Haversham Manor is an English comedy mystery play revolving around the murder of soon-to-be-married, Charles Haversham. As the story moves forward, little things comically go wrong in the play. On connecting the dots, we learn about the people who cheated Charles, and the answer to crux of the play—is Charles really dead?
The play begins after Shewta Pal introduces her directorial debut. The hall is engulfed in darkness and a spotlight falls on a corpse. Charles Haversham is dead. And doing quite a bad job at it. The play follows the classic mystery framework with a police Inspector arriving at Haversham Manor to find out the killer.
With a meticulously planned catastrophe of wobbly sets and forgotten cues, Kalamanch managed to capture the essence of this Broadway delight to the core.
When Charles Haversham is found dead a day before his marriage, his childhood buddy, Thomas Colleymore, younger brother, Cecil Haversham,butler, Perkins and fiancé, Florence Colleymore are all aghast. Thomas and Perkins call Inspector Carter, a respected detective who is also friends with the victim to solve the murder case. Although, there is an initial confusion to if it was a ‘murder’ or a ‘suicide’, as the story unfolds, we learn that every character had a motive to kill Charles Haversham. So, who really murdered Charles Haversham?
And is he really dead?
CAST & CHARACTERS
Shubh Mukherji as ‘Charles Haversham’:
The corpse who could not play dead was quite essentially the most important character in the play. Charles Haversham may have seemed like a man who had it all, but behind that happy façade was a man who had a lot of secrets. He didn’t really trust a lot of people and was considered to be a ‘beast’ by his younger brother and fiancé. He is shown to be a witty and perspicacious person and also has an amazing collection of scotch.
From walking off the stage when he was to play dead to walking on stage before his cue, Shubh delivered a stunning performance. His not so subtle mannerisms, ironically enough, brought the character to life. At the very end, Shubh delivered a monologue in a bold voice which left the audience stunned. He oozed out enthusiasm and surely enjoyed his character.
Pranjal Hooda as ‘Thomas Colleymore’:
Thomas Colleymore was Charles’ oldest and most trustworthy friend. Althought dejected by Charles’ death, he appears to be a responsible and protective elder brother to his younger sister, Florence. Florence Collymore also happens to be Charles’ fiancée. It was he, who first finds Charles’ dead body calls Inspector Carter for help.
Pranjal Hooda effortlessly juggled between the two personas of a ‘protective brother’ and a ‘gloomy friend’. He makes the play more comical by breaking the fourth wall with antics such as forgetting his lines.
Varun Paleli Vasudevan as ‘Perkins’:
Perkins was not just only Charles’ butler but also his confidant. Charles trusted him with his secrets and also leaves all his money to him. Perkins was loyal to his master and vows never to let out Charles’ secrets. He had worked for 8 years (not 80) in the Haversham manor and enjoyed his time with Charles. He strongly believes that Charles was murdered and that it was not a suicide.
In the role of the loyal butler, Varun’s expressions and mispronunciations left everyone howling with laughter. His apparent lack of awareness of what was going on around him was astounding. With his perfectly timed delivery and poker face while delivering lines of utmost comedic value, Varun lived up to his character with perfection
Khushi Singh as ‘Florence Colleymore’:
Florence is the sister of Thomas Colleymore and the fiancée of the protagonist. Although hysterical at the sight of her fiance’s dead body, the play does not take much time to establish her affair with Charles’ brother, Cecil. She even attempts to seduce the gardener, Arthur. She is painted to be an anxious person, complete with regular hysteria.
With her 90s hair, the flared purple dress and the exaggerated voice, Khushi gave a brilliant performance. Through her facial expressions, it was evident that she was putting in all her energy. Her opulent mannerisms and eloquent hand gestures only added to her performance.
Aradhika Jain as ‘Cecil Haversham’:
Cecil Haversham is Charles’ younger brother. Despite their troubled relationship, he is clearly shaken by his brother’s death. He was not only having an affair with his brother’s fiancée but also strongly believed that Charles was too wild for a delicate lady like Florence. Due to this, it often felt as if he was the murderer. He suspects Thomas to have murdered his brother.
Playing the brother of the recently deceased and paramour of the lovely Florence, Aradhika brought Cecil to life in the fullest. With excellent voice modulation, Aradhika delivered some really crisp punch lines with perfect comic timing.
Aradhika Jain as ‘Arthur the gardener’:
Arthur had served at the manor for 90 years and is a diligent worker. He is the one who discovers a lot of clues relating to Charles’ murder which includes a kerchief stained with cyanide and has the initials ‘FC’. He also has a non-existent dog with him that attacks every bystander
Aradhika’s portrayal of Arthur is absolutely amazing and it is easy to forget that she played another character as well.
Milind Purohit as ‘Inspector Carter’:
With snowflakes in his hair, the Police Inspector walked into the room with the sole intent of finding out who killed Charles Haversham. Ironically enough, it was he who attempted to kill him.
Accompanied by nonchalant yet absurd expressions, Milind brought the clueless inspector to life. Milind’s walk, posture and tone of voice suited the character. His long black coat only added to the mysterious aura that surrounded his character.
Adithi Mohan as ‘Stage Manager’:
Probably one of the best stage managers as far as plays go, Adithi was quick to take up Florence’s role when the original actress, Khushi was ‘knocked out’. Donning Florence’s iconic purple dress, Adithi Mohan reads her lines from the script in her hand. She delivers the dialogues in a deadpan manner, leaving the audience in stitches.
Sets and Logistics
For a play that goes wrong, the set is designed to be just that—a disaster. The shoddily made props perfectly complimented the set. The wobbly table, a railing that couldn’t stand upright and a shelf that almost fell off the stage ensured that the play descended into chaos. An evening of absolute pandemonium, the set was nothing short of a health and safety violations. It simply fell apart and that just proved how good the sets and logistics team was at their job.
Lights and Music
The lights and music played their role is highlighting the players and the theme of the production. With sudden flashing lights and intense music at the simplest of dialogues (“There’s been a murder!”), Bhavisya Mittal did an excellent job of handling the lights and sounds.
The music also added to the comedic value of the play, with pop songs playing at the most inappropriate times. The music also helped break the fourth wall. Thomas’ Colleymore’s intense dialogue is interrupted by a HIndi pop song which is shown to be the actor’s ringtone. He answers the recurring phone call with “In the middle of a play, will talk to you later.”
Bhavisya Mittal, however, was not only the lights and sounds guy but also played a part in the production. At one point he takes over Florence’s role only to be pushed into the closet by Khushi, who was actually playing the role.
‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ is an absolutely notable class of farce. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and then some more. The team’s hard work was clearly visible as they managed to make the insane on-goings on stage look anything but intricately choreographed. Each of the performers is a star and highly deserving of the standing ovation they received.
—Written by Tanya Jain and Aakanksha Mantri for MTTN
—Images by Riwtika Sarkar and Annwesha Shyam for MTTN