Mind Mangler, Member of the Tragic Circle

Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Mischief Theatre
Cambridge Arts Theatre

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Henry Lewis and Jonathan Sayer Credit: Pamela Raith
Henry Lewis Credit: Pamela Raith
Jonathan Sayer Credit: Pamela Raith

Before I begin, let’s get one thing straight. This is not The Play that goes Wrong. Yes, it was born out of Mischief’s Magic Goes Wrong show and yes, there are elements of things going wrong, but this has a very different feel to it. The show is good fun and, reflected in the mix of children and adults in the audience, is a great family spectacle. Yet, there are also aspects of this performance that do not work entirely.

Let’s begin with the positives. Two of the original ‘Mischief’ gang lead this show, with the magnetic Henry Lewis playing The Mind Mangler himself whilst being ably supported by Jonathan Sayer as the hapless Stooge. These two are very much fan favourites from those that have followed the Mischief back catalogue, and one can’t help but be drawn to them as performers. Lewis is full of charisma and excellent comic timing, whilst Sayer plays the slightly gormless but loveable character that we have come to know and love.

There are also some laugh-out-loud moments, with the ‘quick fire Jesus’ sketches standing out as being particularly memorable. The script, telling the story about the Mind Mangler himself trying to make it in the world of magic, is often very witty, particularly as he is so flawed.

Mischief has roots in impro theatre, and this comes across in spades throughout the performance. I enjoyed the interweaving of stories from the audience into pre-written sketches and magic tricks, and the quick thinking of Lewis and Sayer as they interacted with the audience was often met with rapturous applause and laughter.

For me, as much as the audience involvement is a strength, this is also where the production falls down, as it becomes too focused on interaction, which more often than not leads to the action itself getting lost somewhat. The performance became almost like a holiday park variety show, with elements of panto and slightly cheap laughs being thrown in for good measure. Some jokes, though funny, are also slightly overplayed and walk the line between being clever and a little irritating.

This is not to say that the Cambridge audience did not delight in the evening; they seemed to lap up the show and many left with big smiles on their faces. For me, it just felt a little lazy, and there are perhaps better Mischief comedies to invest in, despite the obvious skill of the two gifted performers.

Reviewer: John Johnson

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