Writers: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields
Original Director: Mark Bell with Mischief Theatre
Tour Director: Kirsty Patrick Ward
Mischief Theatre has capitalised on farce. Following on from the Olivier winning Play That Goes Wrong and the equally successful Peter Pan Goes Wrong, they keep their prized wits but bring their talents to a different setting.
As one would hope with the title The Comedy About A Bank Robbery – laughs are in no short supply. Maintaining the signature physical elements Mischief Theatre are known for, nothing can be trusted: no set piece, no prop and certainly not any of our characters as we stray into a show about a (not so) simple bank heist with added romance and slap-stick.
Just there, on the edge of ‘too far’ sits a joke. A joke which few dare push further for fear of repetition or staleness. Mischief Theatre, in a manner only they seem to get away with, kick that joke as far possible. What ensues is a precious ability to push a laugh to its boundaries without losing the crowd.
Everyone plays a tremendous role; nothing is half-hearted. If we can though, spare a thought for dear old Warren played by Jon Trenchard with a performance so charmingly pitiful you cannot fail to appreciate the characterisation put into such a heavily dedicated role. Easily the standout performance of the production, excluding Simon the Seagull.
Standing out for Trenchard is no easy feat, given David Farley’s set design. To describe this as technically ingenious still isn’t as rich a compliment as is needed. In theory and almost 100% in practice, an unfolding set piece works remarkably, allowing for plenty of space for performers whilst hiding the gags from the audience. The real gem though, without spoiling, is a truly unique birds-eye view from the heist. The humour, performances, set design and David Howe’s lighting work together to split any sides left intact in the audience.
Parody for many has lost its way in a string of knockoffs with no heart. Mel Brooks lives by the code that to make a successful parody, you have to love what you’re lampooning. Writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer & Henry Shields are clearly inspired by iconic cinematic influences from the nineties and late fifties. From over the top fits of hilarity such as The Great Race or Brook’s own Great Train Robbery. Nowhere though does it feel more akin to than that of the nineties with John Walters Cry Baby, Liam Jeavons’ providing his best Jonny Depp via James Dean.
Another element reminiscent of the 1990 film, and unexpected are the musical interludes found in the production. A current addition to Mischief’s repertoire, the sound design for The Comedy About a Bank Robbery brings about tighter musical transitions than the most musicals. In particular, a rather stirring rendition of Peggy Lee’s (or Jessica Rabbit) Why Don’t You Do Right? from Ashley Tucker.
In the push for a narrative away from the stage settings of the past, The Comedy About A Bank Robberyloses the sneakiest trick. In moving from deliberate failed set pieces, the seams and sinew show. They only detract slightly, being more prevalent in the second acts fast-paced entrances and exits. Suspicions arise this is more due to the touring nature, but heavy secure bolts cause flowing comedy to sometimes jam, throwing off timing.
So, they’ve done it again, Mischief Theatre has torn apart murder mysteries, confuddled the pantos and are now robbing our hearts with a bank robbery. This is a comedy that delivers on its name. We can’t wait to see which genre Mischief take aim at next.
Review originally published for Reviews Hub:
Run ends 18th May – continues touring: