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Review: Mischief Movie Night (Vaudeville Theatre)

Mischief Comedy returns their improv piece to the West End

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Jonathan Sayer and the Mischief Movie Night company
© Pamela Raith

This is likely set to be my final live stage review of the year. A year that only the most morbid of brains could have imagined – one that saw the theatre industry contorted and stretched to lengths few dreamt it would ever have to reach.

There has been herculean work done by freelancers, producers, venue staff (whether office-based or front-of-house) to try and mount stage shows – for their work, nationally, to be tossed to and fro by inconsistent government policies has been heart-wrenching to write about.

But by jove, it's the nights like Mischief Movie Night that make it all worthwhile. An improvisation show created by the makers of The Play That Goes Wrong, Magic Goes Wrong, Groan Ups and The Goes Wrong Show (which is on the BBC later this month), the concept is simple and strong.

The fleet evening, a 70-minute masterpiece in improvised comedy, has a cast of seven improvising a film based on audience suggestions (in our case, a perhaps too-close-to-home musical set in a Surrey hospital (the same hospital where, funnily enough, my partner was born a quarter of a century or so ago)). From a few words comes a full show, with fleshed-out characters, a generally watertight narrative and all the necessary improvisational lashings of whimsy.

One of the reasons why this show really steps above its fellow improv peers is the fantastic addition of Jonathan Sayer, who sits at the side of the stage, remote-in-hand, and "pauses" the action to comment on the ludicrousness unfurling in the "movie". It's a witty way for the show to pull itself out of any unenergetic bits, fast-forwarding through self-inflicted tedium or allowing the company to grapple with unexpected "flashbacks" that Sayer throws at them.

You know when you get Mischief you are set for comedy hijinks and that is very much the case here. This is a show that truly confirms my belief that Henry Lewis is one of the funniest people on the planet and, even though musical numbers are hard to get right, Nancy Zamit and Josh Elliott make it look as though they've been rehearsing for weeks on duets and solo numbers performed with chortlingly droll faux-sincerity.

The show will, after tonight, not be able to perform under tier three restrictions. But the moment it comes back, book a ticket.

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