dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
International hit show back on stage
Mischief Theatre's The Play That Goes Wrong began life as a small improv show but today it's become a worldwide hit being enjoyed by audiences on every continent bar Antarctica. Currently on its fourth major tour of the UK, the slapstick comedy comes to the West Midlands this autumn.
The show takes audiences into rehearsals for the Cornley Drama Society's production of the mystery drama Murder at Haversham Manor - but unfortunately quite a few things go wrong!
The play was written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields and first performed in a London pub in 2012 before moving to the Trafalgar Studios the next year. Jonathan is the first to admit they didn't expect it to be the worldwide hit it has become.
He recalls: "The three of us were living together at the time in a pretty run down flat in Gunnersbury. We were all working in bars and call centres and restaurants and, in the evenings, we'd come home and we'd write until the early hours. The initial script, I think, took about a month to put together and we then workshopped the script with the rest of the Mischief team. Everyone's done a lot of improv so we try and take those principles into the writing room and into rehearsal where if someone has an idea you accept it and you build on it."
Collaboration was the key from the very beginning. "We all made a pact together a long time ago that if something isn't funny we'd just say it isn't funny," says Jonathan. "As long as you're always scrutinizing in a positive way, that's only going to make the work better."
And the show certainly did work, winning awards both sides of the Atlantic and helping to catapult Mischief into the internationally recognised company it is today.
Jonathan says: "I remember about 10 years ago performing in our improv show and there were more people on stage than there were in the audience so of course it's a surprise! We've been totally blown away by the response. We're so thrilled that people enjoy the work and the characters and that we've been able to make so many different people laugh. The show began in such a small way performing in a 60-seater pub theatre so for it now to be being enjoyed in huge venues all around the world is very humbling and wonderful."
And the mishaps being faced by the theatre company resonate with everyone: "I think the idea of making a fool of yourself in front of a huge number of people is something that everyone can relate to. Everyone has felt that feeling where they want the ground to open up and swallow them, so they get on side with the characters in the play and they really want them to get to the end of the show!"