Who could have predicted, a few years ago, that Mischief Theatre – who once performed a fringe show in which the cast outnumbered the audience – would one day have no less than three successful plays running simultaneously in the West End? Following the runaway success of The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong, the company’s latest show is a fast, frantic and totally bonkers comedy about a bank robbery. Which, coincidentally, is also the name of the play.
Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, this is the story of Mitch (Henry Shields), Cooper (Greg Tannahill), Caprice (Charlie Russell) and Sam (Dave Hearn), a gang of incompetent crooks in 1950s America trying to steal a Hungarian prince’s diamond from the town bank. But first they have to get past bank manager Robin Freeboys (Henry Lewis), 67-year-old intern Warren (Jonathan Sayer) and perplexed cop Officer Shuck (Jeremy Lloyd), among a multitude of other dysfunctional characters (most of them played – sometimes simultaneously – by the endlessly versatile Chris Leask). Will they manage to steal the diamond? Will they make it out alive? And who will get the girl? There’s only one way to find out…
It almost goes without saying that The Comedy about a Bank Robbery is very funny; although a few of the wordplay gags do go on just a fraction too long, that’s easy to forgive in a show that’s essentially two hours of pure escapism and joyful mayhem. The show understands and revels in its limitations, turning them into running jokes and inviting the audience to suspend our disbelief and just go with it – and it’s a testament to the charm of the show and its characters that we’re more than willing to do exactly that.
Despite being a brand new play and the first to move away from the ‘British actors destroying beloved classics’ format, this is recognisably the same company that brought us the Goes Wrong plays. The comic timing and attention to detail are still flawless (it takes a lot of care and skill to do everything so wrong, and somehow get it so right), but Mark Bell’s production is even faster and much more complex, with some impressive – and fearless – physical feats, lightning fast costume and set changes, and a script peppered with running gags so recognisable the audience is often laughing before anyone’s even opened their mouth.
It’s not just the spectators who are enjoying themselves though; the cast also appear to be having the time of their lives, despite rarely getting a moment’s rest. The play is such a team effort that it’s difficult to pick standout performances, although I must admit to falling slightly in love with Jonathan Sayer’s forgetful pensioner Warren and Greg Tannahill’s enthusiastic but incredibly useless Cooper. Nancy Zamit also wows us with her vocals as she leads the cast in an a cappella doo-wop themed soundtrack (it’s exactly as randomly brilliant as it sounds).
The Comedy about a Bank Robbery offers both existing fans and first-timers the opportunity to enjoy the Mischief Theatre genius, and it’s a chance not to be missed. This company’s meteoric rise to award-winning West End glory is not only thoroughly deserved; if there’s any justice, it’s also far from over.
Review by Liz Dyer
One giant diamond.
Eight incompetent crooks.
And a security guard asleep on the job.
What could possibly go right?
Written by and starring the Mischief Theatre Company who brought you the 2015 Olivier award-winning Best New Comedy “The Play That Goes Wrong” and “Peter Pan Goes Wrong”, book now, to be entertained by their unique brand of humour in this hilarious new show.
It would be criminal to miss it.
Age Restrictions: Suitable for 10+
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery
Piccadilly Circus, London, SW1Y 4XA