Mischief Theatre have become an unstoppable tour de force in recent years. Since The Play That Goes Wrong first premiered in 2012, they have gone on to write and perform more hit West end shows such as Magic Goes Wrong, Groan Ups and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, have a hit TV series and even conquered the world of Broadway. The global pandemic saw all their shows grind to a halt, but when theatres got the green light to stage open air performances, they jumped at the chance to return to the stage.
The show Mischief Theatre chose to perform in these "summer" months is a revival (Because who doesn't love a revival?) of Mischief Movie Night, an improvised show where a film is acted out on stage based on suggestions from the audience and every show is a premiere. Because the cast don't know what's going to be suggested or what is coming up, there is a real sense of unpredictability bordering on chaos, and for the performance I watched, the latter was definitely prominent.
With a punishing schedule of three shows at the beautiful Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park on Bank Holiday Monday, any worries that the cast may be running out of energy for the late night performance I watched vanished the moment they started jumping around the stage. After some varied audience suggestions, the theme was decided - a romantic comedy set in Battersea Dogs Home called Hot Dogs. Members of the cast had to quickly decide the roles they wanted to play, be it human, dog or llama (because why wouldn't you have a llama in Battersea dogs home?) though they may have lived to regret those choices.
Watching the extremely talented cast come together and do what they do best was a joy to behold. Every one of them is full of funny bones - it also shouldn't be understated the genius involved in coming up with a brand new show with new characters and new jokes every single time. While not every choice seemed to fit the "family friendly" vibe, the repeat jokes about sacks and cracks led to Jonathan Sayer, playing Oscar, delivering one of the funniest lines of the night "You are doing an advert for why theatre should be re-closed".
In a venue as iconic as Open Air Theatre, some songs needed to be performed, from the chaotic repetition of opening number "I love Dogs", the standout number "My Personality's Rubbish" to the final song deliberately plagiarising other musical songs. I came out of the show longing for a cast recording.
Fittingly enough for a theatre company who are famous for shows about things going wrong, things did indeed go wrong on the night. When Henry Lewis' microphone failed, it was announced his character (currently a waiter at Vapiano) now insisted on screaming every line. Who would have thought the simple line "TWO SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE" could provide such a massive laugh out loud moment.
This was a night of watching some of the funniest people in theatre do what they did best. With each show being unique, it's almost a tragedy each performance lives in memory only, never to be repeated. But that is also what makes each show so special. While the randomness and audience participation of each show mean some shows are destined to be funnier and perhaps better than others and not all jokes are able to land, that really speaks to the beauty of live theatre. Overall this was a fantastic performance and definitely money well spent. In what other show would a show reach its climax with a character pretending to be a pigeon? Well, maybe Cats but that one might not have ended as well.
Mischief Movie Night are spending the week doing a sold out run at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall but more dates and venues are being added around the country all the time, so look out for them and see them if you get a chance!