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How “The Play That Goes Wrong” Went Right

November 23, 2022

In 2008, three friends and former grad school classmates—Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields—started a theatre company that took silliness very seriously. The name? Mischief Theatre. They started out performing improvised comedy shows anywhere they could, from the London Fringe Festival to Scottish prisons. At one gig, the cast outnumbered the audience.

In 2012, the trio started devising their first fully-scripted play, The Murder Before Christmas. Drawing on their own personal disaster stories from their theatrical careers, they decided to adapt the show into what would become The Play That Goes Wrong. The show’s opening night was in a small performance space within a London pub for only four audience members. But the show quickly started to gain traction…and a bigger audience.

In September 2014, The Play That Goes Wrong opened at London’s Duchess Theatre and established itself as one of the most successful comedies in the West End. The following year, the production won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy and the BroadwayWorld UK Award for Best New Play. The original British cast crossed the pond in 2017 and started performing on Broadway, nabbing two Tony Awards along the way.

Since the play was first performed a decade ago, The Play That Goes Wrong has completed four UK tours, finished over 750 clamorous performances on Broadway, launched two national tours in America, and been produced on six out of seven continents…though they haven’t written Antarctica off just yet.