Posts Tagged ‘Henry Lewis’

I had tickets to see this on 17th March 2020. Theatre closures started just before curtain up on 16th March. So that went wrong. 1 year 7 months 17 days later…..

The premise of the show is that we’re at a charity fundraiser for magicians whose acts have led to disaster, in memory of the recently deceased Sophisticato, hosted by his son. He and four other acts are to appear, with Mel & Martina magicians assistants for all of them. There’s a memory man, an escapologist, a dare & danger act, disappearances, doves and cards; all the classic magic sub-genres, and of course many things go wrong.

After diversions with The Comedy About a Bank Robbery and Groan Ups, it’s a return to the idea that made Mischief, with The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong, yet it differs in that the performance precision is matched by audience involvement and improvisation, the thing Mischief did before the Goes Wrong shows, and that they have returned to recently. I really enjoyed it, as I have the others.

Henry Lewis and Nancy Zamit have been in all the previous shows, and their ten years experience shows, though that takes nothing away from the rest of this cast. Zamit has a vicious twinkle in her eye during a great running gag with The Blade, secretly ‘helping’ him risk life and limb in his act. Lewis’ recurring act as the Mind Mangler was the comic highlight for me. He plays the audience expertly, a lot of it ad libbed, with, on the night I went, a man laughing loudly and out-of-synch handled / incorporated brilliantly, as well as any premiere league stand-up.

Mischief have made history in a very short time with five West End shows (three simultaneously at one point, two running now, one transferred to Broadway) and a reach that extends to twenty other countries, two BBC TV series’ and three Christmas specials. Most important of all, though, is that they’ve mastered the art of pure populist entertainment, providing people of all ages and backgrounds with a good time, offending no-one and amusing everyone.

A tonic.

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Mischief Theatre continue their campaign for world domination of the genre of farce with this new comedy. I’m pleased they’ve decided to move on from the ‘goes wrong’ plays and I’m even more pleased at how successful this is. 

It’s set in Minneapolis in the late 50’s (I smell a Broadway transfer!). From a prison break-out through the planning of the robbery to its execution, it’s uproariously funny full-on farce. The eight founders / regulars have been supplemented by just one newbie and the experience and chemistry they have developed over the years shows. It’s even more physical and has even more stunts than previous shows. The addition of music contemporary to the setting, sung a cappella during scene changes (and occasionally within a scene) is a lovely bonus, and they sing well too. A joke on the elevation of an issue to higher levels is used twice to brilliant effect, as are those ‘circular’ jokes based on multiple mishearing’s and misunderstandings. 

They’ve raised their game in production values again. David Farley’s set makes great use of the relatively small Criterion stage with action above and around – and on the back wall! – and there are good period costumes by Roberto Surace. If George Martin was the fifth Beatle, then director Mark Bell must be the ninth member of Mischief, because his high energy, fast paced staging is crucial to the slickness of the show.

Though it’s still in preview it’s already in great shape and I predict another huge hit. What Mischief do so well is entertain everyone and offend no-one. You only had to look at the audience to realise they are from eight to eighty, Londoners and visitors from all over the place. The Mischief fairy-tale of success continues……

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