Mischief Movie Night

Patrick Centre

Birmingham Hippodrome


I would assume that by now, with the advent of shows like Whose Line is it Anyway, and just an understanding of the word itself, that the practice of Improvisation in a dramatic sense, is something that everyone understands. In short, it's the age old process of making it up as you go along.

Of course, the results of improvising are often a hit and miss and its success is often down to the quick wit of the players and their ability to adapt with imagination, to bring a scene to a successful conclusion.

To sustain a scene with any real creative relevance takes skill and often training from a performer and the ability to move the action forward, whatever the situation. Even the best only last a few minutes before the energy runs out or the scene breaks down but the Mischief Movie Night Company have taken the artform to a whole new level.

By that I mean a full 1 hour and 10 minutes of hilarious and at times quite dramatic comedy that is different with every performance.

Like other theatre Improv troupes, they take suggestions from the audience. Here it's the genre of Movie you would like to see, where it's played out and several key action moments, all suggested by the audience.

It's then down to the players to bring that movie to life. The key ingredient to enabling some direction and control over the proceedings is the intervention of Jonathan Sayer. Mr Sayer is an Olivier award winning writer and the company director of Mischief theatre and responsible for the hugely successful The Play That Goes wrong.

During the performance, as the story progresses, Jonathan is able to stop the action and tell the audience what happens next, giving the actors some initial seed to follow and build upon.

However once that is done it's all down to the performers. These include Charlie Russell, Dave Hearn, Henry Shields, Henry Lewis , Ellie Morris, Bryony Corrigan, Harry Kershaw and Josh Elliott, who create, act, sing , and dance their way through to the next part of the entirely improvised story.

It's funny, entertaining and downright bizarre at times, but the seat of the pants experience makes it all the more fun and the outcome is as amusing and surprising to the cast, as it is to the audience. No one knows quite what is going to happen next.

It’s impossible to talk about what you will see as it's different every night. Our movie was a Western, set in small town called Cabbage Hope where nothing happens except the growing of cabbages until one day three bandits turn up and take over the town.

This spurs the son of a cabbage plantation farmer to follow his dreams of becoming a real cowboy. If it sounds bizarre then it was but the cast made it work. It was mad, sometimes emotional, and always entertaining. They even managed to squeeze a Bollywood dance routine into the proceedings.

There is improvised music too, as the two keyboard players cleverly follow the mood of the scene and make up the soundtrack as the action progresses. There were only a couple of times where things didn't quite add up or work, but even they were resolved cleverly with the director Mr Sayer stopping and rewinding the action to make fun of a performers issues with their made up lines.

It's a hugely satisfying experience for both the audience and cast of a Mischief Movie just to see how everything resolves to some kind of a dramatic conclusion. The knowledge that they are making it up as they go along adds to the enjoyment and the applause is genuine when someone skillfully negotiates their way through what appears to be a written scene, often with a very clever punchline.

It takes a lot of comic skill to make this kind of theatre work and this company have it in spades. It's well worth going to see them at see them at work as you get a very funny original movie every night, designed, written, created and performed out of thin air, and personally made for you. To 01-07-18

Jeff Grant


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