Interview With…Henry Shields

The writer and actor chatted to Emma Clarendon about all things Mischief Theatre including the company’s year long season at the Vaudeville Theatre.

(c)Joseph Sinclair

Hi Henry – thanks so much for talking to me. How has it been seeing Mischief Theatre as a company develop as it has so successfully over the years? It’s been a very surreal experience. I often have to remind myself how lucky I am. Mischief was initially just a part-time hobby we all nurtured and loved, so seeing it slowly grow to take over our lives has been wonderful.

For those who aren’t aware, how did the company first come about? What did you initially want to do with the company? The company was founded by a group of Lamda students and I joined after it had been around for about a year. Initially it was all about improv! A shared love of improvising and telling stories naturally brought us all together.

There is so much variety of comedy in your shows how difficult has it been to keep coming up with new concepts and ideas for productions? Actually we never really have a shortage of new ideas. We have vague plans for a movie about an Antarctic expedition, a sitcom set in the woods, loads of different Goes Wrong episodes, a new play and a bunch of other things. The challenge is finding time.

What do you enjoy the most about what you do? Getting to be creative with all of my closest friends.

So Mischief Theatre is currently having a year long season at the Vaudeville Theatre – how did that idea come about? We’d just spent a lot of time working on a TV show and found ourselves with a six month gap between projects and needing something to write, so it seemed like an opportunity to push ourselves. We were all missing our theatre roots so we thought it would be fun to put together three new shows and luckily Nimax got behind the idea.

The first show in that season is of course Groan Ups – when creating it did you put elements of yourselves into the characters or are they all simply new personalities? It wasn’t intentional but we did end up putting a lot of ourselves into the characters. I can’t say I shared a lot of my character’s experiences but his mannerisms and attitude are definitely based on the sulky teenage me.

As the show was forming did it bring back a little bit of nostalgia of your own school days? We spent a lot of time reminiscing in the rehearsal process and I was very much reminded of how awkward and uncertain my childhood was! And sadly we did draw upon my own personal experiences with several dead hamsters.

Meanwhile, its not long until The Goes Wrong series heads to our screens. how did you find the process of creating something for television? Incredibly fun! Theatre will always have the advantage in terms of connection to a live audience, but the scope of what is possible in television is a writer’s dream.

Is there anything that you would love for Mischief Theatre to do in the future? I have been quietly harbouring an idea for a movie. It’s a long way off happening but at this stage I am starting to think that anything’s possible.

By Emma Clarendon

Groan Ups plays at the Vaudeville Theatre until the 1st December. To book tickets click here. Meanwhile, Mischief Theatre’s second production at the Vaudeville theatre Magic Goes Wrong plays from the 14th December until the 31st May 2020. To book tickets click here.  

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