Winning 11 international awards, including the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy and a 2017 Tony Award for its Broadway transfer, The Play That Goes Wrong continues to play to sold-out houses in the West End, while enjoying its new status as Broadway’s longest running play.
It is a remarkable rags-to-riches story for a play, which started its life at a London fringe venue with only four paying members of the public at the first performance.
The show has since played to an audience of almost one and a half million people worldwide.
Last autumn The Play That Goes Wrong played simultaneously in 12 countries.
“It’s so much fun to be in,” says Wrexham actress Elena Valentine, who is returning to the region this week when The Play That Goes Wrong arrives for runs at Chester’s Storyhouse. before visiting Mold’s Theatr Clwyd in April.
“The play introduces The ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ who are attempting to put on a 1920s murder mystery. But as the title suggests, everything that can go wrong does.
“I play Sandra who takes herself very seriously and dreams of being a successful actress, but of course it all goes wrong.”
Elena, 24, graduated in 2015 with a First Class Honours Degree in Acting from the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts after she was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award by the Society of London Theatre and was selected to represent her drama school for the Carlton Hobbs Award at the BBC.
“I think every actor can associate with The Play That Goes Wrong,” she laughs.
“I’ve been in some professional plays where similar things have ended up happening and I think that’s why this show is so enjoyable.
“I was staying with my godparents in Cheltenham last week and they do a lot of amateur dramatics.
“After they came to watch it they were telling me all the similar things that have happened in their lives.
“You can really feel the pain on the actors’ faces when they realise when something has gone wrong and how awful it is.”
Co-written by Mischief Theatre company members Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, the play has been described as a “highly physical comedy packed with finely-tuned farce and Buster Keaton inspired slapstick delivered with split-second timing and ambitious daring”.
“It is so physical,” says Elena.
“My character gets thrown out of windows, hit by doors and basically beaten up.
“I’m gathering a lovely collection of bruises! I certainly don’t have to go the gym, let’s put it that way.
“I think there’s been a bit of a gap in the market for physical comedy which is always associated with all these old, great actors who are brilliant but it’s just not done anymore. It has just worked and has now gone everywhere.”
Traveling with a large production isn’t daunting for the young actress, who was recently seen on our screens playing Catherine Howard in Henry VIII and His Six Wives on Channel 5.
“Being on the road has its pros and cons,” she says.
“One of my favourite parts is exploring and running around a new theatre when we arrive there.
“Finding all the nooks and crannies is the best part and then you get to step on a new stage with a new audience and a new space to work with – that’s what keeps it so exciting even though you’re doing it again and again.
“I love finding differences in the audiences. In Northampton they liked the slapstick comedy, but in Chichester they were a bit more refined.”
Growing up in Llandegla, Elena took up acting at church.
“I was at Wrexham Methodist Church and we used to have our own little drama company,” she remembers.
“We put on things such as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and there were some brilliant people there who would write scripts and do the music.
“It was so much fun and then I did a lot of performing arts at Yale College.”
After losing her head as Henry VIII’s ill-fated wife, Elena is looking to a more secure future on stage.
“This is my first big comedy role and it’s been so different,” she adds. “With drama you have to really explore your feeling but at the moment I’m too busy being hit by things – it’s made we want to do everything when it comes to acting.”
l The Play That Goes Wrong is at the Storyhouse, Chester, from Monday, January 29 to Saturday, February 3 and Theatr Clwyd, Mold, from April 9 to April 14.