Mischief Theatre and the Contract of Play

The last year or so has been pants to say the least. Personally it has taken a huge toll on my already dubious at times mental health! However, there has been one shining light since the later stages of 2020 – Mischief Movie Night In from Mischief Theatre.

Mischief Theatre is a group of very talented actors who are incredible improvisation performers. In the Movie Night In shows they take ideas from the internet and audience (Zoom and live when available) and create an improvised one hour movie. The story, characters, direction and even the music is all made up as the go along. I’ll be honest, I have never laughed as much in my life as I have at some of these shows!

As I watched more and more of the live shows, I realised something that had never occured to me. They are playing! Whilst there are loose rules around plot, they are just doing what comes naturally, creating dynamically changing meta rules as they create new characters and new narrative strands.

They all know why they are there and they all feel safe to try new ideas, even if they go horribly wrong. To facilitate that, they all trust each other and leave their egos at the door, knowing that whilst it is all in fun – mistakes will be mercilessly used to generate laughs! Again though, they all understand that – it is part of lusory attitude, it’s part of the contract of play they unconsciously sign as they enter the theatre.

Now there is a new phrase to throw in.

The Contract of Play

This is the crux of what I learned from them, a simple set of unwritten rules that they all seem to adhere to in order to perform the way they do – something I think we need to bring into all gamification and actually – all work in general!

  1. Leave your ego at the door
    • There is no room for ego in day to day working life. We all need to work together to create the best outcomes – especially as we move more towards blended approaches to office and home working.
  2. Be Trustworthy
    • For play to work, you must trust those around you – to be able to do that, you yourself must be trustworthy.
  3. Be Respectful
    • It is all meant to feel safe and fun for everyone. Don’t make it personal and respect those around you.
  4. Have a Lusory Attitude
    • To be able to play, you must accept that you are there to play and that you are in a playful mindset when you begin.

I am sure you can add more rules than that, but I think that is a good start!

Remember, profesional play is meant to be safe, but productive!


Similar Posts:

Also published on Medium.

Please wait...

Leave a Comment