The original Mischief Theatre company - Henry Lewis, Nancy Zamit, Jonathan Sayer, Dave Hearn, Charlie Russell and Henry Shields - at my Groan Ups post-show talk at the West End's Vaudeville Theatre, London, 17 October 2019. © Peter Jones

The original Mischief Theatre company my Groan Ups post-show talk. © Peter Jones

As part of an ongoing series, I’ve chaired post-show talks with various Mischief Theatre casts this year, all of whom waxed lyrical about the brilliance of the company founders. Last night, I had a chance to pose questions to those original mischief-makers themselves.

Co-writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields and fellow founding members Nancy Zamit, Charlie Russell and Dave Hearn met at LAMDA drama school, where they founded Mischief in 2008.

After years of presenting work at the Edinburgh Fringe, they had their breakthrough with multi-award-winning farce The Play That Goes Wrong, which was followed by Peter Pan Goes Wrong, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, Mischief Movie Night and, on BBC television, Peter Pan Goes Wrong, A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong and the upcoming series The Goes Wrong Show.

The six are back onstage together in the world premiere of Groan Ups, the first in Mischief’s year-long season of new work at the West End’s Vaudeville Theatre. After previews since 20 September 2019, the play – which, in three acts, traces the friendship and fortunes of a group of classmates, aged six, 14 and 30 – officially opened last week. But that doesn’t mean it’s fixed.

After last night’s performance, we had a tremendous turnout from the audience, packed with Mischief groupies (one woman had seen The Play That Goes Wrong alone more than thirty times) to talk about the development of Groan Ups as well as the company’s journey overall.

  • How important is friendship to their success?
  • What advice would they give to their younger selves?
  • What is Henry, Henry and Jonathan’s writing process?
  • How conscious was the decision to take the work in a new direction with Groan Ups?
  • How much does a Mischief show change from first preview to recast?
  • How does it feel to have actors around the world playing roles that they originated?
  • What ethos do they pass on to the wider Mischief ‘family’?
  • Do the physical demands of creating the shows take a toll?
  • Any pre-show rituals?

There were also fun facts about programme doodles, an ode to the importance of costume design (and the brilliance of Robert Surace, Mischief’s longest-serving creative), requests for sacrificial goats, a top anecdote about Penn & Teller and an elevator pitch for Magic Goes Wrong, Mischief’s next new show at the Vaudeville Theatre.

Watch and share the full post-show talk below – and mark your diary for my next Mischief event, returning to The Play That Goes Wrong at the Duchess Theatre on 19 November. And fingers crossed for a new year event to Magic Goes Wrong.

Groan Ups continues until 1 December 2019 at the West End’s Vaudeville Theatre.

Q&A video

Q&A photos

Event photography by Peter Jones.