BWW Interview: Ellie Morris Talks THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG at The Duchess Theatre
How would you describe Mischief Theatre's shows to those who haven't seen them?
I think that in general they're high energy, fun, with a lot of physical comedy, and a lot of laughs.
What is The Play That Goes Wrong about?
It's a play-within-a-play. The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, who are a kind of am-dram university society, are putting on a murder mystery called The Murder at Haversham Manor and they're not the greatest at putting on a play. Different things go wrong: the set is falling down, people keep forgetting their lines, and other funny things.
Who do you play?
I play Sandra. She thinks she's the best actress in the world. I think she genuinely loves the show and she loves performing, but that can get in the way of the play sometimes. She's a bit self-obsessed, let's say.
Is there any pressure in joining such a beloved presence in the West End?
Yeah, there is always pressure. You obviously want to do a good job, I think this is the seventh cast in five years in the West End. We want to keep up the quality of the show, and we're hopefully doing that. It's really great to go into such a popular show.
How do you make sure you have a fresh take on an already established character?
I've seen quite a lot of different Sandras, and I think that naturally people will bring their different personal qualities because they're different actors. We do a lot of improv during rehearsals and that's a fun way of finding out who the character is. In terms of playing Sandra, she's in the play playing the character Florence, so there are two layers.
You're kind of playing two characters: your base character and then their character in The Murder at Haversham Manor. You have to try to differentiate the two and find out how you're going to present them to the audience, that's been fun. The improv definitely helps, and that's also a lot of fun to do.
Why do you think Mischief's shows are so successful and popular?
I think it's because they're genuinely funny. I've been in a lot of their shows and I've seen them so many times, and I still find them funny. They're the kind of shows that you can see once and then you want to see them again a year later, or even a few months later.
They're also easy to watch, and it's always a lovely night of escapism and comedy. I think everyone wants a bit of that in their lives. I think that's why they're so popular.
You've just come off the UK tour of Rotterdam, which is miles apart from The Play That Goes Wrong in terms of themes. As an actor, do you approach the material differently when it's a comedy?
I think so. Rotterdam has some comedy in it, although it's a more serious subject matter. I guess I tend to approach the characters individually based on the play I'm in - I don't have one way of analysing and creating a character. It definitely depends on the people in the room and how the rehearsal process goes.
Rotterdam was maybe a bit more instinctive when it came to reading other people's performances, whereas in The Play That Goes Wrong, while you have to be incredibly perceptive because you're playing off the nature of live audience and you have to be in the moment, it's a lot more technical in terms of the rhythm and the physicality - you have to be a lot more precise. It's a very fun contrast.
Has anything gone really wrong since you joined the show?
We've been only doing the show for five weeks, and there are a lot of safety measures that are in place to make sure that things don't actually go wrong. There hasn't been anything yet, but we do have a huge book of contingency plans, which is basically all "What do we do if... one of the levels doesn't drop, or this other thing doesn't happen."
There are a lot of plans in place to make sure that everyone knows what happens if something goes wrong. But nothing's happened yet. I've still got 14 months to go, so we'll see!
How would you convince someone to come and see the show?
I would just say that it's really funny. You can just relax, it's a few hours, it's a lot of fun!
What can the audience expect?
A few surprises, lots of laughs, and a great time!
Images courtesy of Robert Day