Fishbowl – Pleasance Courtyard

Written by Pierre Guillois, Agathe L’Huillier and Olivier Martin-Salvan

Directed by Pierre Guillois

Runs at Pleasance Courtyard from July 31st to August 26th (not 14th), 13:00pm

You ever have those days where nothing goes right? Ever have one of those lives where everything just goes to hell? That’s the lives of these accident-prone, chaos attracting neighbours. They have my life; they have your lives, but with added rabbits. With an air of Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin, Fishbowl shapes up to be a timeless piece of physical comedy.

We all have our personal spaces, our very own little fishbowls. If you’ve ever lived alone – you’ll recognise yourself. Any familiar with Mischief Theatre’s “…Which goes Wrong” series of productions will see familiar aspects in the design of Fishbowl. It does, however, have a unique angle with each trick or chaotic collapse. Nothing is safe, certainly not the kitchen sink as every nook and cranny could turn foul at any given moment.

Writers Pierre Guillois, Agathe L’Huillier and Olivier Martin Salvan create pure mayhem without a word of dialogue. Their performers, expressive to the extent of cartoonish, do an incredible job with the highly technical production, never missing a cue and covering any slip-ups rather meticulously.

Fishbowl owes itself to those beyond their onstage cast. Its construction, when you examine, is as beautiful as it is ingenious. Each box, smoking-pan, seagull and window have a place, both for mise en scène but vitally, it might just be the source of a gag. Laura Leonard’s set design separates the three with striking colour palettes, achieving a sense of magic within the confines of these realistic sets.

There’s an odd mix of playing safe before hammering down the full throttle. When pushing their limits, Fishbowl will fill the Pleasance with roaring laughter. Where its strength lies is uncertainty, its surprise and punchline – not in its build-up.

Rarely is your finale punchline the strongest, but Fishbowl pulls it off spectacularly. It ticks every box in the humour catalogue, and without giving the game away, if it puts you off, you most likely haven’t found your sense of humour yet.

Tickets available from:

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery @ King’s Theatre

Video Rights:
Mishief Theatre

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: