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Almost everything they do Goes Wrong but still audiences love a bit of Mischief.
With a string of theatrical mishaps under their belt, critically acclaimed theatre troupe Mischief are out on tour with The Play That Goes Wrong and new production Groan Ups. We caught up with co-writer and Artistic Director Henry Lewis to find out more...
What is Mischief’s ‘mission statement’ and how did the company come into being?
Mischief was formed in 2008 as an improvised theatre company. Since then, we’ve branched out and now mainly create scripted work.
At Mischief we are serious about silliness. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to break free from the shackles of everyday life and escape with us to a world of carefully choreographed chaos, merry mishaps and timeless comedy. A place where you can escape reality and laugh until you cry. It is this belief that lies at the heart of our brand and underpins everything we do - we call it ridiculous escapism.
How would you describe The Play That Goes Wrong and where did you get the idea?
The Play That Goes Wrong does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a play where everything that can go wrong, does. The Cornley Drama Society attempt to put on a murder-mystery, but props go missing, actors get concussed and the set begins to crumble. The idea came from theatrical clowning, a theatre style myself and the other writers studied at drama school, and we also took inspiration from Michael Green, who wrote the terrifically funny Art Of Coarse Acting - a book all about how to be a bad actor.
Are any of the characters based on anyone in real life?
Other than ourselves, not really. When you develop clown characters it’s quite common for bits of yourself to end up in the character, exaggerated for comedic effect.
How do you kickstart the writing process and decide on the direction of travel?
Usually for Goes Wrong pieces we start with a new genre and come up with a broad idea of how we might have that unravel. We look at how the different Cornley Drama Society characters might approach that particular type of theatre. Then, from there, we start to find jokes and physical comedy ideas.
When you’re searching for that next brilliant idea to be the basis of your next play, what criteria do you apply?
The idea has to be original and laugh-out-loud funny.
It's tough to make your mark in theatreland. What particular factors do you feel have allowed Mischief to make such an impact?
I think audiences like a bit of irreverence. The shows are designed to be funny, to be an escape, and I think people really need that, especially at the moment.
You co-write Mischief scripts. What do you each bring to the process as individuals?
Different things at different times, I would say, but in particular Henry S has a great eye for structure, and Jon has a brilliant natural instinct for finding the silliness in situations that really makes audiences laugh.
Groan Ups is funny but not without pathos. What was your purpose in giving the play this extra dimension?
We wanted to see if we could do a show where we kept the audience laughing all the way through but which also put character at the centre of the show. We thought it would be fun to explore five people at different stages of their lives and tell a story that was funny but also moving.
Who were your comedy inspirations when you were growing up?
Monty Python, for sure, and, as I say, Michael Green was a huge inspiration for all things ‘Goes Wrong’. Older comedy as well - Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd.
What’s next for Mischief?
We’re always developing new things, I’m sure there’ll be more new stage and TV work, and maybe even a film! That would be very exciting.
The Play That Goes Wrong shows at Birmingham Hippodrome from Tues 26 to Sat 30 October, and Malvern Theatres from Tues 9 to Sat 13 November
Catch Groan Ups at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Mon 8 to Sat 13 November, and then at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, from Mon 28 Feb to Sat 5 March
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