Mischief Theatre

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Mischief Theatre
The Goes Wrong Show.jpeg
TypeTheatre group
  • United Kingdom
Artistic director(s)
Henry Lewis
Jonathan Sayer
Henry Shields

Mischief Theatre is a British theatre company founded in 2008 by a group of students from The London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art in West London, and directed by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields.[1] The group originally began by doing improvised comedy shows, but by 2012 they expanded into comedic theatrical performances that includes choreographed routines, jokes, and stunts.

The company is best known for their performances as the fictional theatre company, The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, who attempt several amateur performances that comedically go wrong. Significant work by the company includes the award-winning 2012 stage play The Play That Goes Wrong and the BBC television series The Goes Wrong Show. Several of the stage performances by the company have been not only shown in the West End of London, but also in theatres across the United Kingdom, North America, and Europe.


Mischief Theatre was first formed in 2008 by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, while studying in a drama foundation course at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.[2] The three founders selected the company's members, most having been recruited from those attending the same course, including Dave Hearn, Nancy Zamit, Bryony Corrigan and Niall Ransome.[3] The company conducted its first performance, Let's See What Happens, at The Questors Studio Theatre in July 2008,[4] which they later performed at The Edinburgh Festival the following month.

In 2012, Lewis, Sayer and Shields devised the script for The Play That Goes Wrong, a comedic play based on the real-life situations regarding accidents and problems that can occur in stage productions. The script saw the company's members diverge into choreographed performances, including stunts and jokes. The play premiered in London later that year, and proved a resounding success, with further shows and tours in later years, and a special rendition conducted for the 2015 Royal Variety Performance show. The directors soon focused the company to conducting additional new shows, either based on improvisational comedy or scripted performances, including Lights! Camera! Improvise!,[5] Late Night Impro Fight,[6] and The Murder Before Christmas.[7]

In 2016, the company was approached by the BBC to conduct a televised Christmas special, consisting of an adaptation of their play Peter Pan Goes Wrong. The adaptation proved a success, with the BBC later commissioning the company to develop a new Christmas special in 2017, before offering its members their own television series, The Goes Wrong Show, in 2019.

On 1 April 2020, Mischief Theatre began a weekly podcast titled "Mischief Makers", which focused on the members of the Mischief theatre.[8] During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mischief Theatre put on improvisational comedy shows (Mischief Movie Night) in open-air venues in late August and early September.[9] They briefly took the show to the Vaudeville Theatre in December before a national lockdown caused venues to close, forcing their planned schedule to be cut short. To compensate for this, the company conducted their show online, under the title Mischief Movie Night In.[10][11]

Stage productions[edit]

The Play That Goes Wrong[edit]

The Play That Goes Wrong is a play by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields.[12] It premiered at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London in 2012,[13] moved to Trafalgar Studios in 2013,[14] toured the UK and internationally in 2014 and opened to the Duchess Theatre in the West End on 14 September 2014. In the play The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society attempt to put on a 1920s murder mystery, but the performance is beset with disasters and the accident prone cast struggle through every scene.

It won Best New Comedy at the 2015 Laurence Olivier Awards and Best New Comedy at the WhatsOnStage.com Awards in 2014[15]

Its run in London's West End at the Duchess Theatre was extended until November 2020.[16]

The play opened on Broadway in New York City at the Lyceum Theatre in April 2017 with the original West End company. It closed on Broadway in January 2019, before immediately moving to the Off-Broadway theatre New World Stages and reopening in February 2019, where it still continues to run. The Broadway company was followed by 2 North American touring companies and a sit-down production at Chicago's Broadway Playhouse.

Foreign language productions of The Play that Goes Wrong have also been presented in France,[17] Israel, Finland, Italy, Belgium and Russia.

Productions were due to open in China, Australia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Spain, Greece, Israel, Scandinavia, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Argentina, Uruguay, Turkey, New Zealand, Singapore, Philippines and South Africa.[citation needed]

Peter Pan Goes Wrong[edit]

Peter Pan Goes Wrong is a comedy play by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields in the 'Goes Wrong' range. It premiered at the Pleasance Theatre in London in December 2013 before touring the UK in 2014 and 2015,[18] and in December 2015 it opened at London's Apollo Theatre.[19] Following widespread critical acclaim, Peter Pan Goes Wrong returned to the Apollo Theatre for a limited run from 21 October 2016 – 29 January 2017.[20][better source needed]

The play is adapted from the original stage play Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie and in it the inept and accident prone Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society set out to present the classic tale of Peter Pan with comical and disastrous results.

The production was nominated for two Off West End Awards[21][failed verification] for Best Production and Best Ensemble.

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery[edit]

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is a comedy play, written by Lewis, Sayer and Shields.[22] The play opened at the West End's Criterion Theatre on 31 March 2016, with an official opening night on 21 April 2016. The show is ended in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original cast included: Henry Lewis, Henry Shields, Jonathan Sayer, Nancy Zamit, Dave Hearn, Charlie Russell, Greg Tannahill, Jeremy Lloyd and Chris Leask

The play is directed by Mark Bell, with set design by David Farley and costume design by Roberto Surace.[23]

Lights! Camera! Improvise! and Mischief Movie Night[edit]

Lights! Camera! Improvise! is an improvised comedy show format devised and performed by Mischief Theatre.[24] The show was first presented at The Edinburgh Festival in August 2009[25] and has since been performed across the UK and internationally as well as at The Duchess Theatre in the West End.

In the show a film collector named Oscar invites the audience to suggest genres, locations and a title for a film which he then finds in his extensive DVD collection. A company of six or seven performers then improvise a longform narrative based on these ideas under the direction of Oscar.

In 2013 the production won a Spirit of the Fringe Award at Edinburgh Festival.

In 2017 the show, renamed Mischief Movie Night, began a limited run at The Arts Theatre in London's West End.

In 2020 Mischief Theatre began live-streaming semi-regular performances of Mischief Movie Night In during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaudeville Theatre residency[edit]

In September 2019 Mischief Theatre began a year long residency at the Vaudeville Theatre in London's West End, alongside the long-running productions of The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About a Bank Robbery.

Groan Ups[edit]

Groan Ups was written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, and was the first production of the residency, running from 20 September until 1 December 2019, featuring the original Mischief company and directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward.

Magic Goes Wrong[edit]

Magic Goes Wrong is a collaboration between the company and Penn & Teller that combines the Goes Wrong formula with actual stage magic. The production began previews 14 December 2019, prior officially opening on 8 January 2020.[26] It had been extended to run until August 2020,[27] but the COVID-19 pandemic shut it down in March. The production reopens on 21 October 2021 at The Apollo Theatre for a strictly limited Christmas run.[28]

Television productions[edit]

Peter Pan Goes Wrong was adapted for a one-hour television special which was broadcast on 31 December 2016 on BBC One. It featured almost the entire original cast (with the exception of Rob Falconer) and guest starred David Suchet as the narrator.[29]

On 30 December 2017, A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong aired on BBC One, featuring both Dame Diana Rigg and Sir Derek Jacobi. Following the events of the previous year, the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society have now been blacklisted by the BBC. Determined to get back on the air, they hijack a live broadcast of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.[30] The special was watched by a reported audience of 4.61 million.[31]

On 22 February 2019, it was announced the company would create a six-part BBC One series titled The Goes Wrong Show, starring the original cast and creatives behind The Play That Goes Wrong.[32][33]

The Nativity was the subject of the 2020 Christmas special.[34]

Peter Pan Goes Wrong, A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong and The Goes Wrong Show were filmed at dock10 studios.[35]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The Play That Goes Wrong Nominations and Awards (UK and Broadway)
Year Award Ceremony Category Result
2014 WhatsOnStage Awards Best New Comedy[36] Won
2015 Broadway World UK Best New Play[37] Won
Olivier Awards Best New Comedy[38] Won
2017 Broadway.com Favourite New Play[39] Won
Broadway World Best New Play[40] Won
Drama League Awards Best Play Nominated
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Scenic Design of a Play (Nigel Hook) Won
Tony Awards Best Scenic Design of a Play (Nigel Hook) Won
Outer Critics Circle Awards Outstanding Set Design (Nigel Hook) Nominated
2019 Broadway World Funniest Play of the Decade[41] Won
Lucille Lortel Awards Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play (Matt Walker) Nominated
Peter Pan Goes Wrong Nominations and Awards
Year Award Ceremony Category Result
2016 Olivier Awards Best New Comedy[42] Nominated
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery Nominations and Awards
Year Award Ceremony Category Result
2017 Olivier Awards Best New Comedy[43] Nominated
2020 Mousetrap Awards[44] Power of the Ensemble Nominated
Groan Ups Nominations and Awards
Year Award Ceremony Category Result
2020 Mousetrap Awards Spectacular Set Nominated
Magic Goes Wrong Nominations and Awards
Year Award Ceremony Category Result
2020 Olivier Awards Noël Coward Award for Best Entertainment or Comedy Play[45] Nominated


  1. ^ "Peter Pan Goes Wrong to be broadcast on the BBC this Christmas". What's On Stage. 15 August 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  2. ^ "About Us". Mischief Theatre. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  3. ^ "The Play that Went Right: An interview with Jonathan Sayer". Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  4. ^ "Mischief Theatre on the theatre, the West End and things that go wrong!". Performance Reviewed. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  5. ^ "Lights Camera Improvise". Nimax Theatres. Archived from the original on 18 December 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  6. ^ "Late Night Impro Fight". The List.
  7. ^ Lines, Sarah. "The Murder Before Christmas - Old Red Lion Theatre". The Good Review.
  8. ^ Mischief (1 April 2020). "Big Mischief announcement! We have a BRAND NEW PODCAST coming out NEXT WEEK! We can't wait for you all to hear it...pic.twitter.com/NOz8kJvcUo". @mischiefcomedy. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  9. ^ Mayo, Douglas (8 August 2020), Mischief Movie Night UK Tour – Book Tickets, britishtheatre.com, retrieved 29 March 2021
  10. ^ Thomas, Sophie (9 December 2020), ‘Mischief Movie Night’ begins performances at the Vaudeville Theatre, London Theatre, retrieved 20 March 2021
  11. ^ Thomas, Sophie (18 December 2020), ‘Mischief Movie Night’ to livestream performances in December, London Theatre, retrieved 29 March 2021
  12. ^ "The Play That Goes Wrong". www.theplaythatgoeswrong.com. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  13. ^ "Sheer Schadenfreude: The Play That Goes Wrong at the Old Red Lion Theatre". One Stop Arts. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  14. ^ Spencer, Charles. "The Play That Goes Wrong, Trafalgar Studios, Review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  15. ^ "Full List: Winners of the 2014 WhatsOnStage Awards". Whats On Stage.
  16. ^ "The Play That Goes Wrong". Nimax Theatres. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  17. ^ "Les Faux British". Théâtre Tristan-Bernard. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  18. ^ "Upcoming Shows". Mischief Theatre. Archived from the original on 28 May 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  19. ^ "Peter Pan Goes Wrong (Apollo Theatre)". What's On Stage. 10 December 2015. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  20. ^ "Show". Peter Pan Goes Wrong. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  21. ^ "OffWestEnd.com - The_offies - The definitive guide to London's Off West End theatre scene, featuring listings and details for over 80 theatres, news, discussion and exclusive special offers". 15 July 2014. Archived from the original on 15 July 2014. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  22. ^ "Olivier Winners Stage Bank Robbery". officiallondontheatre.co.uk. Official London Theatre. 3 December 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  23. ^ "Play That Goes Wrong team launches new West End show". thestage.co.uk. The Stage. 3 December 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  24. ^ "Lights! Camera! Improvise!". Nimax Theatres. Archived from the original on 18 December 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  25. ^ Hawkins, Rowena. "Edinburgh Review: Lights! Camera! Improvise! – The Improvised Movie, Pleasance Courtyard". A Younger Theatre. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  26. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Mischief Theatre to Join Forces With Penn & Teller for Magic Goes Wrong". Playbill. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  27. ^ BWW News Desk. "MAGIC GOES WRONG Extends Until August 2020". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  28. ^ Thomas, Sophie (21 September 2021). "'Magic Goes Wrong' announces West End casting, ahead of moving to Apollo Theatre". London Theatre Guide. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  29. ^ "BBC One - Peter Pan Goes Wrong". BBC. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  30. ^ "BBC One - A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong". BBC. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  31. ^ "Weekly top 30 programmes: BBC 1 (SD+HD): 2017: December: 25 Dec - 31 Dec". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board.
  32. ^ Gans, Andrew. "BBC Will Air 6-Part Series The Goes Wrong Show, Based on The Play That Goes Wrong". Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  33. ^ "BBC One - The Goes Wrong Show". BBC. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  34. ^ "BBC announces a bumper crop of festive shows". www.bbc.co.uk (Press release). BBC Media Centre. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  35. ^ "New six part series for BBC One - The Goes Wrong Show to be filmed at dock10". www.dock10.co.uk. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  36. ^ "Full List: Winners of the 2014 WhatsOnStage Awards | WhatsOnStage". www.whatsonstage.com. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  37. ^ BWW News Desk. "BWW:UK AWARDS 2015 - Cumberbatch, HAMLET, Ellis, Staunton All Winners!". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  38. ^ "Olivier Winners 2015". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  39. ^ "The Play That Goes Wrong - Official Site". www.theplaythatgoeswrong.com. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  40. ^ BWW News Desk. "Winners Announced For the 2017 BroadwayWorld UK Awards". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  41. ^ Criscitiello, Alexa. "10 Years of Broadway Superlatives - Celebrating The Standouts of the Decade!". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  42. ^ "Olivier Winners 2016". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  43. ^ "Olivier Winners 2017". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  44. ^ "Mousetrap Awards". Mousetrap Theatre Projects. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  45. ^ "Olivier Awards 2020 with Mastercard - Theatre's Biggest Night". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 16 March 2020.

External links[edit]