Review of ‘Good Luck, Studio”: “Expect the unexpected”

Mischief’s newest creation continues to travel around the country after its first limited run at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre. Guillermo Názara reviews this comedy show dealing with the recording a children’s show and an actor seeking revenge in a dragon costume, from the same team whose London long-running play keeps going wrong at every performance…

Legend says that when Walt Disney was searching for ideas for his second animated feature, the industry’s reply was blunt: “go back to Snow White – give us more dwarfs”. It’s no secret that, when an idea appears to be doing well at the box office, chances are that won’t be the last you’ve seen of it. Just as in the filmmaking industry we’ve grown accostumed to franchises going up to their 9th installment (I suppose there’s not really a galaxy’s edge), a similar trend seems to be happening when it comes to live shows – or at least, in the Mischief Company’s case.

A play that goes wrong, a Peter Pan panto that goes wrong, a magic gig that goes wrong… Everything revolves about the same premise: something having to do with showbiz that, for one reason or another, ends up in some sort of catastrophic disaster. It may be funny – and as a matter of fact, I had an incredible time when I ventured into their long-running London production (theatre purists will hate me for that remark). But despite my sensible excitement to see a new piece penned and directed by this group, the logline of the recording of a children’s TV show that (though refreshingly not mentioned on the title this time) also goes wrong, really triggered my fears of watching exactly the same thing, with just a few twists and turns to make it look different. At the start of the performance, I told myself that I was right.

Cameras on and Wibble The Dragon is ready to make a splash – or rather a crash, ’cause what’s awaiting onstage is exactly what Mischief is known for: comedic chaos and absurd dismay, on this occasion set in a whimsical universe of creepy talking frogs, fruity queens (literally) and banana kings (no double entendre intended). All of that brought to life (if such sight could ever be called that) by the same kind of troupe we’ve grown familiar with through the team’s previous repertoire: an unmotivated actress who couldn’t care less about her job, a stammering performer having trouble with reciting children’s rhymes and an veteran thespian so committed to his work he would even die for it (pleased to say -or shouldn’t I be?- he almost got that part right!).

Surely you have a few laughs in the beginning, but the resemblance to the creators’ previous works (added to a slower pace) sadly reinforces the impression that maybe it was not such a good plan to come watch it – as just as suspected, it’s too close to what they have already given us before. Then the stage takes a 180º turn, and so does my judgement about the piece.

Lights dimmed and clock set back on time to take us to the same situation we’ve just witnessed for around half an hour – only at this moment, from the control room’s perspective. The same way the start seemed quite behind, the take off in this part is incredibly (and much engagingly) fast, all of a sudden boosting not only interest but true enjoyment and fascination for what’s about to occur. Far more intelligent comedy stands on the spot from then on – combined with an unexpected nail-biting plotline and, of course, their usual light-hearted physical and sophomoric humour I confess to enjoy a lot too. But that’s not the only trait that separates this text from the others – since, most surprisingly, the key engine of the entire plot is, in fact, what you would never guess to be in a play like this: serious drama. All of it combined leads to no other result that a complete difference not only in the approach but the way we, as viewers, react to it: it’s no longer a line of droll freaks on display for our amusement, we actually care about them.

The show relies once again on a choral cast (a company’s signature guideline), but it’s particularly this production that explains the best why it couldn’t be any other way. Their mutual rapport is infectious, just as the intoxicating energy emanating from their performances – this especially depicted by Adam Byron in the role of old failed actor Anthony, Harry Kershaw as the nerdy unsociable (yet sympathetic) scriptwriter Sean and Gareth Tempest as the reasonably unstable (if that makes any sense) and vindictive David. However, the highest praise is very well deserved by Tom Walker for his portrayal of the ill-tempered producer Andy, not only skillfully playing him, but coming up with a personality that, though obnoxious, achieves to be extremely likeable – though only onstage, let me be clear…-.

With several extra substories and a endless stream of hilarious (and likely to be remembered) moments, Good Luck, Studio triumphantly sets an unprecedent level to Mischief’s standards – as they have proven themselves not only able to make us laugh (that test had been passed long ago) but highly compentent narrators too, particularly in a play with so many jumps and loose ends to tight up as this one is. I would tell the cast to break a leg in their forthcoming performances, but if I have learned anything from them, it’s that in their case things do get better when everything’s is f***ed up.

Good Luck, Studio is currently playing at the Salisbury Playhouse, Wiltshire until 5 November before transferring to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford from 8 to 12 November. Tickets are available on the following link.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

By Guillermo Názara

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