14th June, 2018
A stripped back stage, an ensemble of actors, rapt and ready with an impish twinkle in their eyes, and a lively audience of film fans; the canvas for Mischief Theatre’s latest offering. Anyone that thinks improv is merely the stake of drama students and Occupational Therapy sessions should take note of the skill, wit and apparent effortlessness with which this company bring together (by all other means) disparate elements into a surprisingly coherent night of laughter, comradery and ‘plot twists’.
The concept (in the loosest sense) centres on film buff Oscar (Jonathan Sayer, clearly in his element), who wants to show off his impressive back-catalogue of cinematic marvels. Name any film, any genre, any theme, and he’s got it. After milking the audience for suggestions – ranging from European arthouse to Carry On to *ahem* pornography – we sit back and relax as Oscar gives us a running commentary of the film, complete with rewinds, snippets from the Director’s Cut, and behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew.
On the night we were treated to Mars Actually, a musical romantic-comedy sci-fi extravaganza, featuring sexually potent bilingual dinosaurs that have invaded Mars, a team of scientists squabbling over who got the biggest centre page spread in intergalactic periodical, Uranus, and a tour guide that longs to play in a baroque orchestra, but got expelled for spouting too much exposition. The film was a mad-cap romp through space and time (I never knew how much I needed to see a Shakespeare-quoting dinosaur profess his undying love for a Martian, flute-playing, robot-impersonating tour guide!), and despite the apparent chaos, all came good in the end.
The show is enormous fun, and the cast clearly love what they do. The sense of kinship is refreshing and invigorating as we giggle alongside the actors on stage at the absurdity of what we are asking of them. This is helped enormously by Sayer’s warm and witty rapport with the audience, we feel at ease in his company (audience interaction usually aggravates my social anxiety) and before long the sense of companionship and collaboration radiates from all corners. Alongside Sayer, the rest of the cast are boundless in their inventiveness and talents. From Henry Lewis’ unabashed gusto as misguided villain, Frank Dinosaur, to Joshua Elliott’s and Dave Hearn’s oddly touching interactions as star-crossed lovers-cum-rivals, Carl and Alex, to Charlie Russell’s show-stealing turn as a jeep-leaping brontosaurus – coupled with a live, similarly improvised yet pitch-perfect and parodying score from Yshani Peripanayagam and Jordan Clarke, it was a treat to see the founders of Mischief at their best.
Mischief Theatre are masters of their craft and their background as fringe underdogs that conquered the West End, Broadway (The Play That Goes Wrong recently celebrated its 500th performance on the Great White Way) and even the BBC’s Christmas TV schedules, is an inspiration and a pleasure to behold. May they continue to go from strength to strength. I can’t wait to see what they do next!
Mischief Movie Night plays at Curve, Leicester until 16th June.
For full tour details, please visit https://mischieftheatre.co.uk/shows/mischief-movie-night