Touring – reviewed at Curve Leicester
With a hotly anticipated year-long residency at the Vaudeville Theatre commencing later this year, numerous television specials under their belts and producing one of the longest-running plays in London and New York history, Mischief Theatre has proven themselves to be one of the biggest success stories of contemporary mainstream theatre. And, as with all their previous productions, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery proves exactly why their triumph is so deserved. Heading out on its first UK tour, Bank Robbery is a madcap crime caper with broad appeal and some ingenious staging.
A prized diamond belonging to Prince Ludwig of Hungary is being held for safekeeping by a bank run by shady tycoon, Robin Freeboys (Damian Lynch). Meanwhile, with the aid of a dim-witted jail officer, bad-boy convict Mitch Ruscitti (Liam Jeavons) escapes prison with plans to steal the diamond and pull off the biggest bank heist Minneapolis has ever seen. Yet unbeknownst to Mitch, his girlfriend (and Freeboys’ daughter) Caprice (Julia Frith) has fallen for small-time swindler Sam (Seán Carey). Following a series of miscommunications and mistaken identities, Mitch must enlist the help of Caprice and Sam to break into the vault.
As with all Mischief productions, the plot initially appears to be a mere syphon for a series of increasingly absurd slapstick routines and one-liners, yet their ability to pull together every single story thread into not only a coherent, but often unexpected and hilarious conclusion demonstrates just why Messrs Lewis, Sayer and Shields are masters of their craft. From intricate wordplay worthy of a Two Ronnies sketch, to perfectly choreographed physical comedy and moments of brilliant surrealism (two words: ‘seagulls’ and ‘moustache’!), there really is something to suit practically every taste.
The overall style feels similar to a Zucker Brothers film such as Airplane! or Naked Gun, but there are also allusions to Abbott and Costello, Marc Camoletti and Seth MacFarlane – but it’s all first rate stuff which doesn’t pale in comparison. Highlights include George Hannigan’s full-bodied approach to playing three individual characters involved in a fight with each other, some wonderful riffs on names, a top-notch bedroom farce involving an unconscious body, a maintenance man and a flock of unruly birds, and a birds-eye scene in which a delicious feat of design, direction and choreography sees everything played vertically.
I’d be hard pressed to pick highlights from such a stellar cast, but having read the programme I’m stunned that Bank Robbery marks the professional debuts of both Hannigan and Frith, so assured and comically sharp are their performances. Elsewhere, David Coomber has more than a touch of Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf about him as the childlike prison officer-cum-accomplice, Cooper, while Carey affords conman Sam an affable charm and Jon Trenchard steals almost every scene as lovable loser, Warren Slax.
Fast-paced, laugh-a-minute and genuinely suspenseful, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery ticks all the boxes. I even found the use of doo-wop 50’s tunes to have more thought behind it and panache than in Laura Wade’s Home, I’m Darling, another recent British comedy that showcased a similar aesthetic. This tour is yet another smash-hit to add to their growing repertoire, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what Mischief Theatre produce next from their seemingly endless bag of tricks!
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery plays at Curve, Leicester until 30thMarch.For further UK tour details please visit: https://www.thecomedyaboutabankrobbery.com/uk-tour/venue-ticketsThe cast of The Comedy About A Bank Robbery.
Credit: Robert Day.