[INTERVIEW] A Tale of Two Beans: A Conversation on Chris Bean in The Play That Goes Wrong

By Kat Mokrynski

Part One: Seeing The Play That Goes Wrong On Both Sides of the Ocean

“I am Chris the director, and I would like to personally welcome you to what will be my directorical debut [Pronounced day-boo].”

For those unfamilair with the show, The Play That Goes Wrong is a play within a play, in which members of Cornley Polytechnic’s Drama Society are putting on the murder mystery play, The Murder at Haversham Manor. Unfortunately for them, from the moment the curtain rises, everything starts going wrong, leading to chaos and comedy. One might argue that the main character is Chris Bean, the newly-appointed director of the society who is thrilled to be in charge. Chris is incredibly passionate about the world of theatre and is determined to make this production of The Murder at Haversham Manor the best thing that that the world has ever seen. If you take a look at your Playbill, you’ll see that he’s also taken on multiple backstage roles, including set designer and dialect coach!

Over the past year, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to live in both New York City and in London, giving me the chance to see both productions of The Play That Goes Wrong multiple times. The off-Broadway production, located at New World Stages, went through a cast change when I was in the city, so I had the privilege of seeing two different interpretations of Chris Bean (even though I’d seen one perform in another role before . . . read on to find out more!). Since moving to London, I have seen West End production twice, both with the same actor playing Chris Bean but with different actors playing different roles, leading to a change in tone and different highlights. 

Unfortunately for me (and maybe fortunately for you, reader), to write about all of the differences within the two productions would end up being longer than my undergraduate thesis, especially with interviews and my style of writing! So instead, I’ve narrowed it down to a conversation between the two current Chris Beans on the West End and off-Broadway along with a few words from the original Chris Bean!

So come along with me on this journey as we dive deeper into the character of Chris Bean with interviews with some of the actors who have played him over the years! I can promise you that nothing will go wrong . . . Or will it?

Part Two: A Few Words with Henry Shields

“So ladies and gentlement without any further ado, please put your hands together-”

Recently, I had the chance to ask the original actor (and co-creator!), Henry Shields, a few questions about the role of Chris Bean and what it’s been like to pass the mantle.

Kat: What has it been like seeing actors take on the role that you wrote and originated?

Henry: For the most part, it’s been really fun. I enjoy seeing people do a great job doing that part. For the first year, it was difficult because you have that urge to get in there and do it differently and be like, “No, that’s my bit! You’re missing the beat there!” But actually, I have to acknowledge that so many people have done it so brilliantly that I don’t have any real hold over that part anymore. I wish them all the best. They’re all doing so well, that all I can really say is “Alright, fine. I’ll stop complaining.”

Kat: [Laughs] How would you describe Chris [Bean] as a character?

Henry: Chris is an incredibly tragic character. When I played him, I always took it from a place of utter tragedy, that his personal life was really painful and sad. No one ever saw that on stage, obviously, but that’s where all of his anger and all of his frustration comes from. He’s an intelligent and talented man surrounded by idiots. But he has massive insecurity and anxiety in his own life.

Kat: Did you have a favorite moment from the show?

Henry: I always love the clock routine, more than anything else in that show. So there’s a part of the show where one of them gets locked in the grandfather clock, then we lie the clock down on the chaise and then we pretend that the clock is the person – We do a whole routine, throwing water on their face and all that stuff. I really love that routine, partly because it’s just a lot of fun to do. But also, it’s one where we get the absolute most you possibly can out of one prop. That was our goal with it. We looked at what we had and we thought, “We have a clock, let’s get as many different laughs as we possibly can out of this clock.” And actually, throughout the show, there must be 20 different jokes that we get out of just that one prop, which I’m very proud of.

Kat: It’s funny, because I’m also like writing about the different audience reactions in the US versus the UK. I was so happy that the the hands off the face joke got more recognition in the UK, because that’s probably one of my favorites.

Henry: You know, when we performed the show on Broadway, I didn’t think there was actually that much of a difference between UK and US audiences. 

Kat: Really? 

Henry: Yeah, I think possibly, because it’s a slapstick show, it is very universal. And there really wasn’t much that we thought, “Oh, that’s just a British joke that they just can’t get.” Pretty much everything landed.

Kat: I don’t know, I noticed a lot of differences. 

Henry: Really? 

Kat: Yeah, it’s strange.

Henry: What kind of things?

Kat: Well first off, the ledger bit, no one called it out or anything, so Chris didn’t. That was surprising. 

Henry: Was that in the UK or in the US?

Kat: UK. In the US, they very much call it out! It might have depended on the audience that night, but still.

Henry: I think that’s the audience and I think that it’s a tricky bit to play. Certainly took me a long time to get it right. But I got to the point where I could get pretty much guarantee a shout out wherever it was, every time. But it’s very hard to get that balance. It took me about 1,000 shows to get to a point where I could guarantee it. But I think they do usually get it.

Kat: I’ll have to go see it again and check! But yeah, there were the colloquial differences, like having white spirit instead of paint thinner. But in general, I think because it’s the slapstick it translates pretty easily. 

Part Three: Interviewing the Beans

“I take it everyone is assembled in here?”

One of the best parts of writing about theatre is being able to interview those in the industry about their work. For this article, I was lucky enough to be able to have a conversation with both of the actors playing Chris Bean, Chris Lanceley and Mikhail Sen

Kat: What made you want to be involved in The Play That Goes Wrong?

Chris: It’s funny for me because I’m British and I’m living in a different country. So this show was a connection to home – I see loads of archetypes from comedies that I grew up watching, shows that I want to introduce Americans to living here. So that was a big appeal for me, other than the appeal of having a job, of course. 

Mikhail and Kat: [Laughs]

Chris: I’d seen it the Royal Variety performance on YouTube. That’s all I’d seen, because when a British show is in New York, I tend to wait until I’m home to watch it. So I didn’t see it on Broadway. But it looked like the perfect show to connect me to home and for my unique set of skills that I can bring to the industry here in the US.

Mikhail: For me, similar to Chris, I hadn’t watched it. And I resonate hugely with the idea of just having a job on the West End! 

Chris: [Laughs]

Mikhail: When I read the script, I was in splits and thinking, “This isn’t even up on its feet! This is just off the page!” It’s just brimming with comedy and humor. I loved the script. I was amused by every single moment of it, and engaged by it! There was still a serious murder mystery underneath, it kept me guessing in terms of who did it and that was really exciting. I grew up in India, but a lot of British comedies came to India, including Fawlty Towers and Monty Python, which there was similarity to. So it brought back some of that. But I think the fact that it was just really good on the page and the fact that you had this legacy of being on the West End for seven years, being one of the longest running comedies. So I think all of those things were definitely in its favor. And Chris as a character was something I hadn’t ever had a chance to sink my teeth into. I’ve never really done a comedy part onstage. I’ve done satire, but a comedy part, which is so slapstic and physical, and had all those elements was also really, really exciting for me. So that was my experience.

Chris: You put my answer to shame, that was beautiful!

Kat: [Laughs]

Mikhail: No, not at all! It was just it’s so interesting, when you said it reminded you of home . . . When I walked into that audition room, this was my first audition after lockdown in the room. I remember being so nervous that I just said, “I’m really nervous. I haven’t been in the room for two years!” I thought about doing Chris as an Indian immigrant and then doing Inspector Carter as the posh 1920s Inspector with a very clipped RP [Received Pronunciation] accent. And I thought, “You know what? I’m gonna give it a go!” And I said to the director, “Would you mind I would kick myself if I didn’t try it like this.” So I did Chris as a first-generation immigrant, who probably grew up with all of this British influence coming into India, because there were theatre companies from here coming to India all the time. There’s still this big colonial hangover in terms of the influences. So I thought “Bloody hell, Chris could be the Indian who was inspired by all of this amazing theatre that he saw in his own country that has come over, and so he’s thought this is real theater. This is real art.” So I brought that to the room and apparently it worked, because I’m doing it!

All: [Laughs]

Chris: My first role in the show was Jonathan – They had me cover Chris and they have me do some Chris in the room. But I auditioned for Jonathan and played Jonathan for nine months. Then I got cast as Chris on the national tour, and then COVID happened, cut that short. When we came back after COVID, I was back as Jonathan off-Broadway, covering Chris for about a year. And then the guy who played Chris left for the new Tom Stoppard play, Leopoldstadt, and I took over! So my journey has been Jonathan to Chris to Jonathan to Chris again, so it’s been interesting. I talked recently with the director, because I’m from Liverpool, about you whether he [Chris Bean] is a bit Scouse or Northern in his curtain speeches when he’s actually Chris Bean as opposed to Carter. 

Mikhail: He’s such an interesting character. It’s such a journey playing him. 

 

Kat: So we kind of got into this question while we’re on the last question, but how do you balance playing Bean versus Inspector Carter in the play within a play?

Mikhail: It’s really interesting! Before going on stage, it’s the first night and it has to be the first night every night that you’re doing this. The stakes have to be super high! For me, this is his magnum opus. He’s put his life, his soul, and, according to me, his mother’s dog, Winston, in the show!

Chris and Kat: [Laughs]

Mikhail: He’s given a hell of a lot. He’s expecting, at the very minimum, an Olivier for Best Play. But also, I think he wants the Olivier for Best Actor and Best Set Design because he designed the set. He’s doing it all! He’s basically convinced himself that this is going to be the most successful show the West End has seen in 100 years – More successful than The Mousetrap. I started trying to get myself into that mode before going on as Chris for his his opening curtain speech. But then, in the first 15 minutes, he’s off. For me, Chris is not necessarily waiting in the wings, watching everything. I think he’s prepping, he’s doing his own actor’s exercises. So he knows a couple of things have gone wrong, but he thinks it’s going pretty well until his entrance. Even then, he thinks he can make it better up until the very end, but things really start falling to pieces. His confidence gets a little bit depleted from from the ledger onwards. It’s so interesting because I feel like he never gives up. I don’t think any of them do – They always, always think they can still make it. Every mistake is fine, the audience won’t notice, they’ll forget. They’re not as clever as these guys are. We’re going to impress them with all of this amazing, virtuosic stagecraft that we’ve got. The difference is, in terms of that confidence when he comes on as the director the first time, and even the confidence that he comes on with the second time.. I feel Chris is a very good actor, probably a better actor than he is a director [Laughs]. And I’m not saying he’s a bad director! I just think he’s quite an old school director. And so this is just me sort of freewheeling. The distinction between the character in the play and the director is very tricky, because he’s always the director – He’s always Chris Bean playing Inspector Carter, so he’s got to wear both hats all of the time.

Chris: A lot of that a lot that resonates with me as well! For getting yourself ready, I find that the pre-show helps me a lot with that – Going out and talking to the audience. We dropped that for a long time because of COVID protocols, until maybe about a month ago, we brought it back. I forgot how much fun it is to go out there and talk about how well you think the show’s gonna go to the audience and how important that is for getting Chris into that mindset of walking out on stage for that curtain speech. Having that light hit you and being like, “This is going to be the best show you’ve ever seen!” And then those 15 minutes. He goes off, he does the speech. He knows the mantle’s fallen. He has a costume change. I imagine he’s in a different room. I always feel as Chris Lansley, as myself, after I make that first entrance as Chris Bean, there’s always a part of me that thinks, “Oh, the audience has had a great time laughing at all the things that have gone wrong. And now I’ve entered and things are going right for just this small patch of time from ‘What a terrible snowstorm!’ Through to the the first spit out. I brought it back to the murder mystery for a minute.” But I love that Chris is allowed to enter and all of a sudden, everybody on stage is a little bit more focused until it starts to fall apart. And then he gets that build to the to the ledger bit. It has to be that steady build of frustration and annoyance to for him to eventually just explode on the audience. And then he gets that sit on the platform to reset and he gets another reset at intermission as well after the loops. So he can always bring it back to the murder mystery. He gets those moments that build towards complete chaos, and then he gets to reset to what he actually intends to be doing. Our director calls this the “Cornley Cocktail” – How far you are going one way or the other, between The Play That Goes Wrong and The Murder at Haversham Manor. Mentally, I see it building towards moments. He’s straying from the murder mystery towards frustration and anger or needing to support the other people on stage. And then moments of reset where he can then focus back on the murder mystery. And that’s kind of that same cocktail between Chris Bean and Inspector Carter. And how you balance them can change from night to night, and that changes how the audience responds. 

Mikhail: Yeah, absolutely. We do something very similar where we work with sort highlighted bits that we punctuate and moments of reset. For me, it’s that platform after the ledger, because you really let fly at the audience and it gives you that brief moment of reprieve where you collect your thoughts. But me as well, Mikhail as the actor, needs that reset.

Chris: Yes!

Mikhail: I think Chris is taking stock, but he’s also letting all of the stuff downstairs not necessarily get to him upstairs, because he’s in a different space. I think that’s really important. That’s a really good reminder for me, as well, of what Chris is going through. 

Kat: Were audience reactions what you expected when you first started the role? Are there any times the audience has reacted in a way that you didn’t expect?

Chris: It’s interesting for me, because having understudied Chris for a long time, I got to see the guy playing Chris in our space doing the role. As covers, we get a lot of freedom. We don’t have to do be a facsimile of the person playing the role – We can put our own interpretation and spin on it. 

Mikhail: Definitely the same [on the West End],

Chris: Which is something I love about Mischief, how they let us do that. So I did come to the role with my own spin on it, but equally, it’s terrifying being an understudy! I’d seen him do what works, so especially for the first few performances I did that. What was interesting to me, was that, yes, that worked, but when I had the confidence and the time to really make it more of my own, the different choices can get the same response or a different response. Or the laugh can flow into another one just slightly differently, depending on how you do something. That was in our 350-seat house in New World Stages. And then I went on tour with a full rehearsal process as Chris, and doing it in front of 3,500 to 4,000 people was a whole different experience. Whereas you can do very subtle thing in the smaller house, a bigger thing is required on on the road, but things that would get 2% of the audience laughing in a 350-seat house that’s four or five people. In a 4,000-seat house, that’s maybe a few hundred people! It [the laughter] flows from the front to the back and then comes forward to you again It’s bizarre. And I’ll never forget the time in Fayetteville, Arkansas when I was looking for the ledger and somebody yelled out, “It’s under the fucking couch!”

Mikhail: [Laughs] That’s brilliant!

Chris: That was a response that surprised me. But it’s always surprising how if you do something slightly differently, the audience will surprise you. There’s no one set way of doing it.

Mikhail: I would like to agree with that. It’s so much that the audience is a different character who you’re performing with. They are the ninth character in the show. 

Chris: So true!

Mikhail: The story of it, the rhythm of it, and the base of it really changes based on on the audience you’ve got. It’s so interesting, because I go out for the opening monologue, and sometimes they’re on site from the word “go,” and sometimes you really have to work with them. And if you’re lucky, you get them by Cat. Then you know, that you’ve got them on site. And that, is very exciting. Because once you’ve got the them on site, you can really play. To come back to did I expect the kind of response that we got? I didn’t until we did it the first night. It was just so interesting, because it’s so well written, that no matter what the choice is, no matter whether Chris is Indian, British, Liverpudlian, or whatever, it doesn’t matter – It works! It’s intrinsically a show that will land laugh after laugh and you’ve just got to trust the material. Having said that, we’ve had loads of Americans who absolutely love it. I think it’s also quite interesting to have multicultural audiences and to see their response. It’s great, because we go out at stage door and hear how much people love it. That, to me, is really heartwarming, and really rewarding actually, to hear that night after night that you’re making people laugh and enjoy themselves. And you hear it! I mean, obviously, when you’re on stage, but just how much it means to people every day is the best thing about this job, especially in the times that we’re living in.

Chris: Yeah, agreed. What’s really gratifying is getting an audience that is a little uncertain at the beginning, a little kind of reserved and standoffish, getting them rolling in the aisles by the end of the act. 

Mikhail: Absolutely!

Chris: You can feel it, you can sense it. I love that sensation of having them in your hand. And you’re right, once you have them, you can really play – You can hold moments and they will still be with you. And you can Yeah, that’s that’s what I love.

Mikhail: The challenge of this show is is really the most exciting thing because there’s so many challenges. To play Chris night after night is a challenge because of just how emotionally destroying the part is in terms of how angry he gets, to go through that journey every day. But you’re so right, the challenge of not necessarily having a very tentative audience and when they’re absolutely on their feet by the end of the night is just brilliant. It’s really, really great. I definitely concur.

Kat: Favorite memory you’ve had while playing Bean?

Chris: Mine is touring the show in Memphis, Tennessee. They have a hotel there where they bring ducks down from the roof of the hotel to the lobby of the hotel. They do this really pompous, lovely ceremony where they take these ducks from the roof where they’re kept, down an elevator, to the lobby, and into a little pond they have in the lobby of the hotel. And they have this guy in a uniform who has a cane. We had Chris on for one ceremony, so Chris Bean, dressed in his tux. Went up to the lobby, led the ducks out of the elevator and into the pond, and all of the tourists are coming and watching! And for the rest of the week in Memphis, I took the cane on stage with me for the curtain speech and it was always referenced in the ledger bit – “You ever led five ducks to a fountain? What’s wrong with you?”

Kat and Mikhail: [Laughs]

Chris: But that was so much fun. Such a unique, weird thing to do.

Mikhail: Oh my god, this is this is quite a tricky one! I think taking off from what you said, Chris, what was really nice was when we went out for a meal. It was a promotional thing at a restaurant in Covent Garden where they gave us a free lunch. Every actor loves a free lunch, but I think Cornley Polytechnic absolutely loves free lunch! 

Chris: [Laughs]

Mikhail: So we got dressed into costume and had a little walk down to this restaurant. And the looks we got! I just remember being Chris, but also us being Cornley outside of the theater, which was very special.

Chris: Ah, I bet that’s really nice.

Mikhail: We were just a theatre company going out for lunch. Being the character and getting to really explore that was quite fun. I felt like we really came together as Cornley Polytechnic. That was quite a nice bonding experience, because each of us was was outside in the real world as this company having a company meal. And that was very, very special.

Chris: That’s really nice. I like anytime you get to take the character out of the show a little bit and try them out in a different environment. It actually informs your performance as well, in a way! Do you guys do improv during rehearsal?

Mikhail: Yeah, we do.

Chris: We do them as well. I assume that’s that’s a big Mischief thing.

Mikhail: That is a big Mischief thing, absolutely. So much of the character was formed by those improvs. It was great fun. 

Chris: They were really useful for building the world, the Cornley world, around the show. 

Mikhail: Absolutely.

 

Kat: What advice do you have for those who might be playing Chris Bean in the future? 

Chris: Don’t.

All: [Laughs]

Chris: No do, it’s brilliant. It’s lovely.

Mikhail: Yeah, I would say that as well. I’d say you’re in for a real ride. I might be biased, but I think he’s the best character in the show. I really enjoy playing him. And I enjoy exploring, because I think he’s such a layered, complex guy. His heart is in the right place, but he’s often misunderstood because things are going wrong around him. Circumstances have driven him to be the guy who sometimes not too many people like, including Robert Grove and everyone else.

Kat: [Laughs]

Mikhail: So as a result, there’s a human side to Chris. He’s not perfect. For the next Chris Bean and for anyone who wants to play Chris Bean, enjoy the journey, because it’s a really human experience at the heart of it.

Chris: I completely agree with that. Each each night is a journey for Chris. Where he starts and where he ends are two incredibly different places. Where he imagines it ending compared to where it actually ends, as well, are two really different things. Again, I’ve had a really unique experience with this. My initial rehearsal process for Chris was not with the directors. It was as an understudy, and then I had a rehearsal process for a very different kind of show in front of lots of people. And then coming back after COVID, I was an understudy again, and then took over the role from there. So, in a way, I found myself playing a memory of what I had done before, which was tough. All the work I’d done on the role was a couple of years old at that point. I had three weeks to prep and redo the work, an then boom, you’re on! 

Mikhail: Oh my god . . . 

Chris: So I was playing this memory of what I had done before. It didn’t feel fluid – It felt very rigid and stiff on me. I felt like I was wearing someone else’s costume, like an old memory of the role. So I had to do the work while doing the show. What really helped me, what ultimately changed what I was doingnd got it back to where he was a fluid, living, human being was the notion that he just wants to do The Murder at Haversham Manor – He just really wants to do the murder mystery. People have called my Bean “Mean Bean” – That was his nickname. So I think I got carried away with being annoyed and angry and frustrated with the situation and the people around me. That was almost like a red herring in a way, because Chris doesn’t want to be doing any of that. Chris wants to be the best actor on the stage, playing the stakes of the situation! So whenever I’ve had trouble with the role, I just bring it back to that. Chris wants to play the imaginary circumstances of the murder mystery in that moment. Everything else is just something that happens until he can get back to that.

Mikhail: What’s also really freeing, for me, is not to play for the laugh. It’s tempting, because you’re so used to getting laughs in exactly the right moment. But they rehearsed this play loads of times, ad it was the play that goes right! So Chris is living that memory. He wants to relive that rehearsal on stage in front of an audience. Keeping that in mind, you stop playing it up and sending everything up all the time. And in that, the reward is not necessarily the laugh – The reward is trying to do it the best you can. It’s trying to do it as much as you, Chris Bean, playing Inspector Carter, can do it right. And the fact that it’s gone wrong means it’s gone wrong, you can’t change that, and the audience absolutely love it. But try and do it right. 

Chris: I can’t wait to go back to work tomorrow night and do the show! It’s such an interesting, unique situation to have two productions of the same show with the same staging and be able to talk to the other actor playing the character.

Mikhail: When we were talking about the favorite memories, another memory came back. My mum a dad came over from India to watch in July. In the ledger bit, go from anger to tragedy because for the audience it’s a comedy, but for Chris it’s a real tragedy. It’s the most tragic situation for him. Anyway, I go from, like real anger, yelling at the audience, to tragedy and tears. And my mum was sitting there and I pointed to her and I went, “I promised my mother I wouldn’t cry tonight! And she’s sitting right there!” 

Kat: [Laughs] 

Mikhail: And the audience all turned to this lady – She loved it! That was quite special. There was something quite exciting about it meaning something to everyone, making my parents proud, but actually, in the moment, making making her quite proud as well. Have you have your folks seen it?

Chris: My dad saw me play Jonathan, he saw my first week understudying Chris, and he was due to come to see us in Seattle on the tour, but COVID stopped that. But he came recently, shortly after I took over the role. I did something similar in the ledger bit actually! My dad was up there, I knew where he was and I shouted, “My father’s here, and you’re embarrassing me!” And then I pointed at him and said, “Dad, tell them to shut up!” 

Mikhail: [Laughs]

Chris: And he did! He shouted, “Shut up!” in his Scouse accent. They loved that!

Kat: And now some rapid-fire questions! Is there anyone/anything you’ve looked to as inspiration for your portrayal of Bean? 

Mikhail: I can think of a couple of very… lovely directors I’ve worked with in the past [Laughs] who inspired my portrayal of Chris Bean. But in all seriousness, I drew a lot from Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers.

Chris: My first is John Cleese as Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, a show that I grew up watching and loved. Over time, I’ve pulled back on a bit of the frustration and anger that Basil Fawlty has, but I think the bones of it are there. And then obviously, because I was an understudy, I think a lot of it came from Matt Harrington, who I covered at the time. I saw his performance every day, I saw what I loved about it, things that would work for my version of the character and things that I knew I would have to do differently, because I’m a different actor and a different person. I’ve also seen a lot of Henry Shields in the role. It would be foolish not to take the original portrayal of it and watch that and do the same thing I did with Matt – See what would work for me and see what perhaps what wouldn’t. 

Kat: What’s your favorite line to perform as Bean?

Mikhail: Tricky because there are lots of great lines – but at the moment I think – “He looks the spit of Charles doesn’t he?”

Chris: Some of my favorites are the most challenging lines! I find that curtain speech to be difficult. He opens the show and it’s hard to justify why he brings up the failed productions, and why they move him and affect him so much. It’s a challenge to justify. And it’s also an introduction to the world for the audience as well, which I absolutely love. You don’t know what an audience is going to be like at that point. 

Kat: Favorite line from the show as a whole?

Mikhail: “What’s the vintage?” “Flammable and Corrosive, sir.”

Chris: There’s a scene in Act Two between Arthur the Gardener, Perkins, and Inspector Carter that I really enjoy. After Chris Bean “takes the stairs,” he plops himself into a scene with those two. That’s really fun. I love the way that scene feels like it flows one line into the next leading up to a climax of another gag. Chris Bean’s desperately trying to do the murder mystery and everyone else around him is just being silly. It feels like the final point where Chris Bean is just trying to hold on to some semblance of The Murder at Haversham Manor going well. It’s pretty fun from that perspective. 

Kat: Most underrated joke in The Play That Goes Wrong?

Mikhail: “99 years? What a dedicated man.”

Chris: It’s in Act 2, so I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but we’ve had multiple stand-ins for the role of Miss Collymore. At this point, we have a grandfather clock – You’ve probably seen it in a lot of the press photos. And somebody says, “Mr. Colleymore, please move his hand move her hands from her face.” And he removes the hands of the clock! Sometimes it gets a groan, sometimes it gets a trickle of laughter, sometimes it’s huge laughter and applause and everything. But more often than not, the audience chuckles at it. I just think that the roof should be blown off the theater in that moment, but it rarely is. It’s a brilliant joke! 

Kat: How would you describe Bean in one word?

Mikhail: Legend.

Chris: Optimistic. Chris Bean has to believe that the show is going to be a success and the audience, hopefully, is with him. It’s dangerous and awful to the people on the stage and it’s funny to the people in the audience, but for some reason he keeps going! 

Part Four: The End?

“BANG!”

Over the past few months, my view of The Play That Goes Wrong has gone from thinking it was simply a funny play to studying the nuances of how the actors are able to balance their Cornley Polytechnic characters and those inside of the murder mystery play. It has truly been a delight to delve into the show and all of the little things that make it so special. Of course, this will not be the end of my journey with The Play That Goes Wrong. I hope to bring many friends to see the show on the West End and will definitely be seeing it a few more times myself! Who knows, maybe there’ll be a Christine Bean in the future?

The Play That Goes Wrong is currently running at New World Stages in New York and at the Duchess Theatre in London. Tickets for the off-Broadway production can be purchased here and tickets for the West End production can be purchased here

Thank you to Chris Lanceley, Mikhail Sen, and Henry Shields for their contributions to this article. Special thank-yous to Freya Cowdry, Tom Kershaw-Green, Faith Maciolek, and Jackie Green for helping to arrange the interview and for all of their help throughout the process!

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