Why Mischief Theatre is Dominating Theatrical Comedy

Justin Peters, Arts and Entertainment Editor

During quarantine I was completely drained. Not of energy, time, or money, but of comedy. Yeah, you read that right. Comedy is an essential part of the way we go about our days, because without it, the world would just be a sad, lonely place. Now more than ever, it’s hard to find something so genuinely hilarious that you could watch over and over again because we’ve all been stuck inside for almost a year now, so naturally, content is in short supply. But over in the UK, there is a troupe of actors destined to defy the laws of physics, logic, and most importantly, comedy. Introducing, Mischief Theatre.

Before I introduce you to the disaster artists, I must warn you that I have not seen every show they’ve produced. Since they are UK based, a lot of their productions are not available to US consumers. Namely, their shows “The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, “Groan Ups,” and “Magic Goes Wrong” have not had premieres in the US, and probably won’t due to COVID-19. Usually when I talk about a thing, I have consumed most of what that thing has to offer, but in this case, I can’t actually talk about them unless I get a VPN, or travel to London’s West End, but I need to graduate first so you get what you get.

Mischief Theatre was created by former students of the Lamda Drama School in London. From there, it was only a matter of time before they took over the world. Honestly, their origins aren’t too important for the sake of this article, but if you really want to know, they’ve created a timeline of events on their website which you can find here. They specialize in balls-to-the-wall comedy that usually is too difficult to pull off in normal circumstances. Their big claim to fame in the US was with their Broadway premiere of “The Play That Goes Wrong.” It went on to be the longest running play in Broadway history and will continue to run Off-Broadway when theatres open back up again. “The Play That Goes Wrong” is actually the beginning of a series of plays starring the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society (CPDS). The CPDS is a group of amateur (key word) performers trying their very best to put on shows of quality and grace. But lo and behold, they are very bad. So bad, that they can’t even keep the set together. Their flubs, mistakes, and errors have become quintessential to their productions. All of the troupe members have fleshed out personalities of their own that will occasionally (or in most cases, all of the time) work its way into their performances. 

What works about Mischief Theatre (mostly the CPDS escapades) is that they appeal to all kinds of people. People who hate theatre will appreciate it because deep down, we’re sick of people who prefer to see disaster strike in amateur (or if you’re really sick, scholastic) productions rather than care about the story or characters, and people who love theatre feel the exact same way, but they’ll have a larger appreciation for the production because they’ve seen or have been a part of something similar. Mischief knows that; they know it all too well. They perfectly blend slapstick and wordplay together so well, that I can’t even talk about some of the content they’ve put out without getting into “analysis” territory, so let me just tell you where you can watch the masters at work.

If you have a BroadwayHD account, “Peter Pan Goes Wrong” and “A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong” are available to watch. These two shows are great to start with because they introduce us to the members of the CPDS and are the only two shows that are connected to each other in the CPDS timeline. If you have Amazon Prime Video, you’re even more in luck, because that’s where you can watch “The Goes Wrong Show.” This show has six half-hour long episodes of the CPDS at their best in terms of ideas for disastrous circumstances. It is also available on BroadwayHD, and if you have a VPN, you could watch them on BBC iPlayer.

Mischief Theatre will undoubtedly be the one of the greatest theatrical production groups of all time. I know I couldn’t really mention too much about each show without spoiling and I know many theatre nerds will disagree with me on this and bring up companies like StarKid, Forbidden Broadway, and Tin Can Bros., and while those companies all make great content, they’re nowhere close to being as creative, hilarious, or brilliant as Mischief. Mischief appeals to everybody, young and old, initiated to theatre or uninitiated, as they are for every kind of person imaginable.