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Good Luck, Studio at Mercury Theatre, Colchester – review

Comedy masters Mischief returns with a brand-new farce

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Chris Leask, Tom Walker and Bryony Corrigan
© Pamela Raith

In the last decade, comedy juggernaut Mischief have gone from strength to strength, with their flagship show The Play That Goes Wrong having become a global smash-hit and The Goes Wrong Show establishing them as a household name.

Was this recent foray into television the inspiration for this latest project? Though writer Henry Shields credits the bizarre environment of a TV studio with instilling the idea for a farce, he insists the characters bear no resemblance to any encountered during production.

Not content simply with being the masters of mishaps, their work has, for some time now, begun to show a tendency towards more serious themes. Keen to diversify their offerings, their latest piece, Good Luck, Studio follows the tense final hour of filming on a children's television show and deviates from their usual comedic tone with some considerably darker plot points. If audiences are expecting more formulaic output of the same gags in different settings, they may be disappointed as this is decisively not Kids TV Goes Wrong (even if it definitely does).

On the set of "Wibble the Dragon", an already demotivated cast and crew are frantically trying to film the few remaining pages of the script when the arrival of a rejected auditionee changes the mood in the studio altogether. There is some novelty in the show's structure, as the first act replays the same half hour from two different perspectives – the increasingly chaotic gallery as and on the sound stage – while the second smartly varies this by adding a third location and shortening each scene to 15 minutes. The plot is darkly comic and inherently suspenseful, with all the ingredients for disaster baked in – an egomaniac director, an apathetic star, and a hapless medic being just a few.

Though this new venture features an unusually small number of original Mischief performers in its cast, there are familiar faces at the helm, this being the first full length play written by Henry Shields and the directorial debut of Henry Lewis. In a cast of winning character actors, Harry Kershaw is a sublimely awkward highlight while Chris Leask and Greg Tannahill take on the lion's share of the physical comedy and Adam Byon lands the most punchlines as a deluded classical actor dressed as a lemon-headed king. More at home in the play's darker moments is Tom Walker, the actor better known as the satirical social commentator "Jonathan Pie", who exercises much of his trademark vein-popping frustration here to great effect.

If there are two things Mischief knows how to do well, it's setting up lasting gags that eventually overlap in cumulative chaos to garner enormous laughs, and slapstick, both of which arrive very much overdue in the second act.

Ultimately, however, the best jokes are few and far between and though this move in a bold new direction is an artistically admirable one, it does seem as though Good Luck, Studio would be easier to enjoy if these often hilarious theatremakers played a bit more to their strengths.