Criterion Theatre, London
Guest reviewer: Emma Gradwell
Written by Mischief Theatre founders Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery gives you a grouping of incompetent thieves as they try to steal a rare diamond from Minneapolis City Bank during the summer of 1958 – very much a homage to American screwball cops and robbers comedies. The play begins with escaping convicts and corrupt prison guards plotting the heist. The tone is set from the start that this is very much a modern farce, with Naked Gun-style misheard and misinterpreted words and phrases.
The farcical plot concerns a dubious banker by the name of Robin Freeboys (played by Leonard Cook) whose name produces many comic moments when misheard as “robbing three boys”, inexplicably being entrusted with a rare diamond owned by a Hungarian Prince. The mantra from the start is that everyone in this town is a crook of which we are often reminded by Mr. Freeboys’ underpaid but very smart receptionist, Ruth Monaghan (gloriously played by Jenna Augen). You have to keep watching to the end to find out who finally bags the jewel.
Aggressive and gruff prison escapee Mitch Ruscitti (played by Matt Hunt) returns home to his beautiful but tricky girlfriend Caprice (played by Holly Sumpton) who happens to be the daughter of Mr. Freeboys. Caprice is entertaining loveable petty criminal Sam (played by Sam Fogell) that she met at the bank, he also happens to be the son of bank employee Ruth. What follows is an impeccably timed scene involving the concealment of Sam all around a malfunctioning mechanical bed ending with him assuming the identity of Robin Freeboys with a ridiculous disguise made up of household objects.
The story continues with obvious visual and verbal gags coming thick and fast. The sporadic doo wop musical interludes are cute and beautifully done. One of the highlights is a scene in the bank set at a perilous 90 degree angle to obtain a birds eye view from the banks vents system where the crooks are attempting to get to the vaults. Ageing intern Warren Slax (gamely played by Peter McGovern) is anchored by a safety harness as he tries to manoeuvre his way around the “office” while carrying out menial tasks for the demanding Mr. Freeboys. It is very hard to pour a coffee when gravity is not defied.
A special mention needs to go to Chris Leask who marvellously plays “Everyone Else” in the play. His facial expressions alone had the audience roaring with laughter. A three way fight between Caprice’s unwitting lovers ensues. The lovers are a hillbilly, a decrepit nursing home resident and an angry German. Playing all three parts and being on the giving and receiving end of the punches is no mean feat. Wonderfully performed and slickly directed.
The jokes do become repetitive and are not really very clever. If it’s an evening of high-brow culture you are after then this definitely is not the show for you but if you want to just sit back and watch a bit of silliness then this will tick the right boxes.