Mischief Movie Night

Mischief Theatre

Mischief Theatre

Arts Theatre

From 13 December 2017 to 27 January 2018

Review by Philip Fisher

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Mischief Movie Night is the latest spin-off production from the company behind the theatrical sensation The Play That Goes Wrong.

For readers who have already been howling in the aisles at the ever-expanding programme of plays created by this remarkable young company, a review is barely necessary.

The premise behind this latest incarnation is that the company will improvise an hour-long movie in real time on the stage of the Arts Theatre.

Friendly MC Jonathan Sayer whips up the audience into a frenzy before the evening has started, encouraging them to lob in names of movie genres, locations etc. with which the eight actors on show (including the tremendous trio who set the ball rolling almost 10 years ago) will create mayhem and high comedy before our eyes.

At the press performance, the audience was enthralled and amused by a silly spy story entitled A Mancunian in Paris, which featured Henry Lewis as the well-spoken man from Manchester, Henry Shields as his son and the rest of the cast members playing assorted restaurant staff, musicians and spies as the need arose.

The evening built to the kind of ludicrous finale that is common in low-budget movies of this kind, featuring enough twists and turns for a dozen B-movies.

The cynical might wonder the extent to which the evening has been scripted but will probably never find out the real answer unless they book to see two or more performances.

It is quite possible that several elements come fairly much straight off the shelf, although at this performance the introduction of Josh Elliott’s feline Lassie appears to have been a surprise to all concerned. On the other hand, the team may actually come in with a completely blank page.

Indeed, the producers contacted BTG after this review was originally posted to confirm that “having watched now many times, it is possible for me to confirm that it is all made up on the spot in the moment. The rehearsals they do just involve them warming up the brain muscles that enable them to make connections”.

Many of the best moments in the performance under review came from Jonathan Sayer, who literally holds the remote control, freezing and thawing the action in order to clarify points, poke fun at assorted filmic disasters and generally up the stakes of the comedy whenever the opportunity arises. In particular, the fast forwarding and rewinding was masterly.

Mischief Movie Night will presumably be different at every performance but the likelihood is that anyone booking a ticket will enjoy an hour of light-hearted, lightweight fun, laughing excessively at the performers’ creativity and quick-wittedness as they invent an absurdist comedy that may not quite match the genius of The Play That Goes Wrong but will still be highly entertaining.