Good Luck, Studio - Salisbury Playhouse - Review
When you think of Mischief Theatre images of slapstick hilarity, showbusiness-y attempts gone wrong, and the now globally known Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society spring to mind and as much as we love this and it has been a great success for the company, recent years have seen Mischief branch out to new things. ‘Groan Ups’ saw the company step away from the old school slapstick and towards more wordplay and some more serious topics and with their newest offering ‘Good Luck, Studio’, things have taken a darker turn, a more grown-up spin, with a plentiful dose of the comedy we have come to associate with this powerhouse of theatre.
Penned by Mischief original cast member Henry Shields, ‘Good Luck, Studio’ follows the final hour of filming of kid’s TV show ‘Wibble the dragon’ as actors struggle with their lines and safety equipment, the director loses his temper, the producer panics over far too many accident report forms, and the medic just wants more bourbon biscuits. And I know what you are thinking that chaos sounds like what we have seen from Mischief in the past, but please rest assured, this is something entirely new. When an actor who failed to win the role of Wibble in the past turns up out of the blue with a score to settle, things can a much more sinister turn with the filming is taken over and the threats fly.
A plethora of well-known Mischief faces join this new production (which is directed by original cast member Henry Lewis), with Chris Leask starring as Toby, the lovable but all together accident prone Wibble actor who stumbles over his words and his feet, Harry Kershaw appearing as Dr Suess loving writer Sean who just wants to impress actress Elizabeth, Bryony Corrigan starring as Saoirse, the stressed-out producer and Greg Tannahill appearing as the air fix model loving medic Kevin.
They are joined by Tom Walker as Andy, the brutally honest director who hates every element of his job, Eboni Dixon as puppeteer Pam who struggles to be noticed, actress Elizabeth, played by Jemma Geanaus, who thinks herself above children’s television, Adam Byron as veteran actor Anthony who struggles with safety rules and volume control, assistant director Michaela, played by Sophia Lorenti, who just wants to get the filming done and put out actor David, played by Gareth Tempest who has a point to prove and is willing to do the extreme to achieve what he wants.
Complete with gunshots, explosions, adult language, threats and some very solemn plot points, this production certainly doesn’t have the family appeal of some of Mischief’s other shows but if you are a fan of dark comedy and can find the humour in serious moments, then this is the show for you. Gareth Tempest’s David’s obsession with Wibble and the lengths he is willing to go to in order to play the role are extreme but perhaps he has good intentions (no spoilers here) with a character painted at first as a villain being so well developed and multi-layered that you can’t help but love him, with the characters around him and way in which they respond to the chaos caused each being so different. Each character is flawed and in turn believable.
Tom Walker’s director Andy earns many a laugh with his quick comments and general disgust towards his co-workers, seemingly so uncaring that he can’t be bothered to correctly learn names or listen to someone’s problems, bouncing off of Corrigan’s much kinder but just as stressed Saoirse as she desperately tries to hold it all together. Kershaw’s Sean is awkward and lovable, constantly trying to big himself up too little avail as Geanuas’ Elizabeth doesn’t give him the time of day as she instead focuses on trying to get herself out of the kids tv game. Sorenti’s Michaela is lovable in her honesty and bravery to say it how it is, Leask’s accident-prone Toby wins over the audience with his varied attempts to stay in everyone’s good books and there is a real sense of the audience just wanting Eboni Dixon’s Pam to succeed in getting noticed for once. And Adam Bryon’s Anthony could give Henry Lewis’ goes wrong character Robert Grove a run for his money in a who could act louder contest whilst earning many a laugh with his anecdotes of working with many a famous face.
A lot of the comedy of ‘Good Luck, Studio’ comes from the shock factor, the twists and turns of the piece expertly intertwined with wordplay and shifting time periods that allow the audience to see the same pieces of action from different perspectives, meaning jokes can take on different punchlines depending on who responds to it. This cleverly put together piece is a real credit to Henry (both writer Shields and director Lewis) as it pushes the company into a new place and proves that Mischief is so much more than slapstick.
That being said, slapstick still plays a pivotal role here with Tannahill’s medic Kevin, especially in an act 2 scene with has the audience in stitches with Tannahill proving himself to be at the top of slapstick game.
Sara Perks’ design is incredibly effective, a revolve split into three pieces depicting the larger-than-life bright colours of the Wibble set contrasted against the dull yet realistic gallery complete with sound equipment and paperwork and the sterile practically of Kevin’s medic office.
In this brave and bold step away from the kind of comedy that Mischief is known and loved for, ‘Good Luck, Studio’ is a showcase of just what they are capable of when they try something new. This brand of dark and at times twisted comedy may not be for everyone but what is? Variety is the spice of life and this is a new, bright, bold and simply delicious spice in Mischief Theatre’s powerful recipe for success.
'Good Luck, Studio' runs at the Salisbury Playhouse until 5th November before running at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford from 8-12 November. Tickets are available here https://www.mischiefcomedy.com/our-work/good-luck-studio/tour-venues