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Christmas TV Special – A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong

The Goes Wrong Show is unusual in that it almost seems like it was made the wrong way around…there was a Christmas special, then another Christmas special, and then a couple of series were made. Actually, there was another Christmas special slotted in between the two series! But all that is after the Mischief Theatre company made it on to television. Prior to that was the usual gestation period in drama school, small studio theatres, and The Edinburgh Festival. The brainchild of a trio of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), the Mischief Theatre company went from zero to winning awards in the West End and Broadway.

Back in 2008, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields came up with the idea of a hopelessly amateur, amateur theatre company. They had aspirations, dreams, and ambition. Sadly they didn’t have the talent, budget, or facilities that they needed. As a result, their performances never went according to plan. The whole scenario is played for laughs but is based on the real-life situations, accidents, and problems that can occur in stage productions. As they developed their routines they developed a more choreographed style that included stunts and more jokes. The company expanded and, before much longer, the awards started rolling in and that was followed by the TV commissions.

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Marley Was Dead

The basic premise behind the Goes Wrong productions is that the cast and crew are all members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society.  They are a group of students just doing their best. Unfortunately there are problems with props, memories, scripts, and capabilities. Somehow though, they managed to get a performance of their production of Peter Pan on TV thanks to the BBC. Unsurprisingly it goes horribly wrong. Not only do they manage to ruin their panto, they manage to rampage across several studios interrupting the evening news, Teletubbies, and Eggheads, a quiz show. As a result the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are banned from appearing at the BBC again which puts a kink in their search for fame, fortune, and success.

So rather than missing out on the new production of A Christmas Carol starring Derek Jacobi as Scrooge they decide to take things into their own hands. They nobble Sir Derek, take over the set, and start their own performance. Things start badly when there is a dispute over who of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society is going to play Scrooge. After the clash of egos, the production begins and everything goes smoothly…for a few minutes! There is a member of the cast who is so stricken by stage fright that he can’t remember his lines, there’s a problem involving the sort of glue that you only get in fictional situations, some of the props are in the wrong place, and you shouldn’t skimp on the CGI software. It is very well done and much funnier than I’m making it sound.

Bah…Humbug!

The problem with this sort of production is that it relies a lot on slapstick and sight gags which need to be very well done if the premise is to remain funny to the end. Fortunately, the whole thing has been done very well. Being honest though, the whole thing does have a limited shelf life and I have to admit that the jokes were wearing a bit thin by the end of the second series. But that is a problem for the series; A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong is still fresh. The other thing that sells the joke is the commitment and enthusiasm of the cast. It surprises me that their faces are not better known but that is mainly due to them doing the majority of their work in the theatre. That does help with the conceit that it is an unknown amateur dramatic group performing for us. 

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That doesn’t stop them attracting well known faces to sell the ideas. Derek Jacobi actually appears and joins in the frolics. One of the cast has her Aunty Diana reading the narration. Unfortunately, Aunty Diana is running late and has to read her part over FaceTime from the car. Oh…and Aunty Diana is Dame Diana Rigg! Incidentally, the narrator for Peter Pan Goes Wrong was none other than Sir David Suchet. One of the big stars for me is Nancy Zamit. She is simply amazing playing all the variety of roles thrown at her. She is one of those actors who can make me smile just with a look but she also manages to be acrobatic and athletic; her Tinkerbell is well worth a look!

Grade: A+

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