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The Comedy About a Bank Robbery Review | Criterion Theatre

l-r Holly Sumpton, Matt Hunt, Samuel Fogell. Photo credit Robert Workman
l-r Holly Sumpton, Matt Hunt, Samuel Fogell. Photo credit Robert Workman

Between 1950 and 1966 actor-manager Brian Rix ran a series of plays in the West End. Because of their location and the type of play they were, they soon became known as the ‘Whitehall Farces’. Now, since those days, the Whitehall Theatre has changed its name to the Trafalgar Studio and, whilst there are still many farces along the road in Whitehall, there hasn’t really been any play as successful as Brian’s five were. However, as Mark Twain once didn’t say, reports of the death of farce are grossly exaggerated and a stone’s throw from Whitehall, in the Criterion Theatre, farce is alive and extremely well in Mischief Theatre’s The Comedy About a Bank Robbery.

Set in 1958 Minneapolis City, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery tells the story of Mitch Ruscitti (Matt Hunt) and his accomplice Neil Cooper (Samson Ajewole) as they set out to rob the crookedest bank in the most crooked town in America of its prize – the priceless diamond of a foreign prince. The diamond should be safe and secure under the watchful eye of Bank President Robin Freeboys (Leonard Cox), his daughter Caprice (Holly Sumpton), perpetual bank intern Warren Slax (Peter McGovern), cashier Ruth Monaghan (Jenna Augen) and her wastrel son Sam (Sam Fogell) Unfortunately, the government aren’t so sure so have sent Officer Randal Shuck (Jack Baldwin) to protect the diamond. So, its Mitch and Cooper against the government of the United States, the bank staff and Everyone Else (Chris Leask). Still, Mitch and Cooper aren’t worried. They have a foolproof plan and with guys like these determined to steal the diamond, what could possibly go wrong?

Sitting in my seat as the curtain went up, I waited for the first funny bit of the play to occur. I didn’t have to wait long. At about the third line of the script, I started laughing and didn’t really finish until around two hours fifteen minutes as the curtain dropped again. The Comedy About a Bank Robbery really is funny. I’m sorry, that is a tad of an understatement, it’s absolutely hilarious. I honestly cannot remember when I have laughed so much at a show. Writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields seem to have taken virtually every bank robbery movie from the 1950s and asked themselves ‘what could go wrong at this point?’. Then incorporated the results of their very vivid imaginations into a story that includes intelligent pigeons, a misbehaving pull-down bed, great music, amazing moustaches, hidden agendas and, I think the best false perspective scene I’ve ever experienced. Every element of comedy is present in The Comedy About a Bank Robbery. There is slapstick, pratfalls, cross-dressing, visual gags and some wonderful wordplay worthy of the Two Ronnies at the height of their power.

I have read that for a cast, comedy is the most difficult theatrical style to play realistically. Well, if that is so, then the cast here should all be winning awards for their fantastic delivery. Not only are the lines delivered perfectly, but there are also the facial expressions and amazingly choreographed movements Director Mark Bell has given them around David Farley’s unique and quite amazing set. It’s difficult to pick any one cast member out as this is really a massive ensemble piece where everyone is able to rely on everyone else to be in the right spot, saying the right words at the right time in order for everything else to work. Having said that, special credit does have to go to Chris Leask in his role of Everyone Else. Chris is an amazingly hard working guy playing a whole host of characters and who pretty much steals the show with his ‘solo’ piece at the start of the second act.

l-r Lydia Fraser, Jean-Luke Worrell, Jenna Augen, Chris Leask, Jack Baldwin, Matt Hunt, Samson Ajewole, Holly Sumpton, Samuel Fogell, Leonard Cook. Photo credit Robert Workman
l-r Lydia Fraser, Jean-Luke Worrell, Jenna Augen, Chris Leask, Jack Baldwin, Matt Hunt, Samson Ajewole, Holly Sumpton, Samuel Fogell, Leonard Cook. Photo credit Robert Workman

I’ve tried to give you a feel for the show without giving away any too much. But, just in case my enthusiasm hasn’t come across enough, For this performance of The Comedy About a Bank Robbery I took a friend who has worked in the industry and is notoriously difficult to please – I once took him to a show that he said was worth a low three stars when I said five. However, at the end when I asked for his star rating, he said a definite five and the two of us spent the next hour in the pub discussing everything we had seen.

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is definitely the funniest show I’ve seen. There is nothing to fault from start to finish in this brilliantly written and presented show and, if it’s true that laughter really is the best medicine then everyone leaving the theatre after the show was the healthiest they are ever going to be.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Mischief Theatre, the madcap team behind award-winning productions The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong, present their latest West End smash hit The Comedy About A Bank Robbery.
A priceless diamond has been entrusted to the city bank, but in a town where everyone’s a crook and even security guards can’t be trusted, what could possibly go wrong? Delivering swag loads of laughter, Ocean’s Eleven meets the Marx Brothers in this dynamite new comedy.
Book now for the hottest show in town. It’d be criminal to miss it!
Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields of Mischief Theatre and starring the Mischief Theatre Company who brought you the Olivier Award-winning Best New Comedy “The Play That Goes Wrong” and “Peter Pan Goes Wrong”.

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery
Criterion Theatre
London

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