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Charlie Russell Aims To Please at Pleasance Courtyard – review

The Mischief star is fronting her own solo show

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

© Anna Gibbs

Charlie Russell aims to please – the Mischief veteran declares as she welcomes us to the cosy depths of a Pleasance Courtyard venue. It's a near-obsession, she reveals – she wants to make sure every member of her audience leaves satisfied after an hour. To do this, audience members have to stick their hand up and wave when they feel satisfied with her show – putting on a sticker to evidence their approval.

How will she please us though? Russell begins taking suggestions from her audience – what do we enjoy most? Musicals? Slapstick? Sketch comedy? Ballet? Opera? Whatever comes up, she's ready to deliver. A bit of The Magic Flute on a kazoo? You gotcha.

Russell's talents are manifold – seeing her breadth of knowledge the entertainment world brought into sharp focus is a pleasure. Away from typical Mischief hijinks, sequences such as a performance of "Can't Say No" from Oklahoma! were especially impressive. Her framing device for the show, using the stickers and waving, also added a neat bit of novelty.

It would be wrong of me to spoil the twist, but Russell's show supplies one of the most surprising turn ever seen in a Mischief production. In a move that could well risk alienating the Mischief regulars, she pushes for something more substantial, knotty and complex – blending biographical elements with issues of mental health. Whether this lands as sure-footedly as it could is debatable, but the attempt must be commended.

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