The funniest thing on tv this year since Peter Pan Went Wrong! Mischief Theatre have tapped a rich vein with their anarchic take on theatrical traditions and this translates well into the television environment too. Here a Derek Jacobi fronted version of the festive classic is hijacked by the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society in their usual manner. The result is pure fun which unlike a lot of modern humour does not try to poke fun at the text rather at the production process. So while the story more or less follows the familiar route it’s safe to say you won’t have seen an interpretation quite like this one!
There are loads of delightfully silly moments, my favourite being Nancy Zamit’s character’s ongoing issues with glue. Watching her attempting to exit a crowded set with two encumbrances stuck to her is one of the funniest moments on television this year especially as we also see the reaction of the other cast. The other ongoing gag that keeps delivering is Jonathan Sayer’s character’s inability to remember lines (this applies to whichever person he’s playing!) so they’re pasted everywhere though not always the right way round! Towards the end the ousted Jacobi shows up while a back drop to the production is Henry Lewis trying to win the role of Scrooge. All of which means there are three Scrooges running around by the end. Plus the Ghost of Christmas Future is hilarious as it tries to navigate the sets.
The timing of all this is impeccable yet somehow they manage to dust it with a chaotic coating that makes it look effortless. Yet there’s a clever structure there giving comedic beats, call backs and odd moments. No doubt it takes a lot of preparation especially some of the more physical stunts of which two in particular happen so quickly you gasp. Everyone is playing multiple parts as well as a fictional role of a member of the drama society and it is so masterfully delivered by each of them. Both Derek Jacobi and Diana Rigg also get into the spirit of things.
This was written especially for television unlike Peter Pan Goes Wrong and takes more risks by including some special effects gags solely involving on screen things like model shots, green screen and so on. They even leave the studio to venture outside into the real world which is surreal. Better still the team have talked about wanting to have a full tv series giving them the chance to further explore the possibilities of the medium. That would be great; in the meantime catch this while its on the iPlayer if you missed it and note that The Play That Went Wrong, the original production that started it all is touring the UK in 2018. More on Mischief Theatre