It doesn’t fall foul of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 in any way – The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is, well, an amusing story about a bank robbery, from Mischief Theatre, the theatre company that brought The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong to the West End stage. This is not simply yet another ‘goes wrong’ production – it is hardly a spoiler to say that it can’t, by definition, actually be about a bank robbery if the said bank robbery was unsuccessful.
Do forgive my pedantry: it’s influenced by the way in which the play uses very similar names and phrases to create comical misunderstandings. With the legendary Ronnie Corbett having passed away recently, one can’t help but draw a comparison between a mishearing as ‘three’ for ‘free’ and vice versa with the famed ‘fork handles / four candles’ sketch. A couple of running gags never outlasted their welcome, and there’s some extremely inventive use of staging in the second half to look out for. I congratulate set designer David Farley on such a remarkable achievement.
It’s the first half, however, that ever so slightly proved a teeny weeny bit disappointing, at least when the house lights came up for the interval. I wasn’t on the verge of crying with laughter as I was on seeing The Play That Goes Wrong on first viewing (or second, or third, for that matter). With hindsight it’s a little bit like watching Les Miserables (though in many respects, of course, the two shows could not be more different); here, in Act One, there’s character development and planning for the strategic action to take place in Act Two. Thus the second half would never have been the utter hoot that it was without the setup of the first.
I still say, however, the first half dragged more than it should have done, and bits of it were a tad too predictable for a top notch West End production. But there’s an impressive amount of physicality, making full use of the proscenium arch stage; an article in the show programme notes Charlie Russell, who plays Caprice Freeboys, has “a bit of an issue with heights”, before asserting that there isn’t much acting required in a particular scene. Let’s just say that a show that lists a health and safety consultant, David Leach, as part of its production team, gives you an idea of how close to the sun this show flies.
I particularly enjoyed Henry Lewis’ rendering of Robin Freeboys – imagine a cross between Brian Blessed and Victor Meldrew. Sam Monaghan (Dave Hearn) was, paradoxically, a likeable crook, and it’s his affectionate mother, Ruth (Nancy Wallinger) who points out that “everyone in this town is a crook” (that is, in one way or another), a point unequivocally proven by the end. On paper the script is, frankly, a bit lame; it’s this superb cast’s enthusiastic and engaging delivery that makes it come to life. And, to be fair, there were some twists in the narrative of Act Two that I didn’t see coming.
It came across to me as the latest in a long line of British farces, and it’s a sufficiently enjoyable couple of hours. The timing, as is required for a British farce of this kind, is impeccable down to the half-second. As ever with Mischief Theatre the primary objective appears to be to provide light entertainment rather than to give its audiences deep and meaningful storylines. There are elements of the plot that are never properly explored or explained, but the show is best enjoyed by overlooking the shortcomings in the narrative, and going with the flow.
Review by Chris Omaweng
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