From modest beginnings on the Fringe Theatre scene, to its West End (and soon to be Broadway) stardom, Mischief Theatre has kept us giggling. ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ followed a small amateur dramatic group that couldn’t seem to get anything right. ‘Peter Pan Goes Wrong’ was the teams second outing, providing a similar idea of play within a play that just won’t go to plan. In this sense ‘The Comedy About a Bank Robbery’ is not what I expected at all…. it was instead something much more magical.
The story follows one escaped convict, a Doctor/Lawyer/Rabbi/Pickpocket/Getaway driver, a deceitful daughter, a bank that’s lacking in security and a Canadian who just wants to join in, as they all hatch a plan to steal a rare diamond. The result; a nugget of theatrical brilliance from its arse to its elbow.
The play has a feeling of a fifties cartoon, not dissimilar to ‘Batman and Robin’, but with a grittier edge. It’s a true force of talent as the cast presents a slick, polished and most importantly believable farce both physically and emotionally. As well as having the entire audience in stitches, there were also some very sad and shocking moments that truly had me gripping the edge of my seat.
The entire cast gave it their all, from start to finish, and not one weak link can be observed. I could just insert the cast list, but particular mention must go to Charlie Russell who was simply delicious as the scam artist with a sugar daddy on every street. Greg Tannahill was cute and quirky as ‘Cooper’ and tremendous plaudit must go to Chris Leask who displayed a magnificent physicality when fighting himself! Nancy Wallinger must also be commended for her excellent vocals. Three words. Phe. Nom. Enal!
Mark Bells direction is snappy and hilarious. This teamed with the fantastic set made for something truly special. No spoilers, but theres a perspective trick in the second act that I could not stop guffawing at (between laughing obviously)! Every piece of action had its tongue firmly planted in its cheek and had the audience on board from scene one.
The writing was laugh a second and wonderful, however I couldn’t help feeling that some of the material wasn’t exactly original. Taking inspiration from the greats old and new, such as ‘Fawlty Towers’ and ‘Family Guy’ is expected and imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but there were at least three moments I could pinpoint exactly where I’d heard a line or joke before. Intentional or not, it caught my attention and seemed a little unoriginal.
All in all I had a fantastic evening and came away with a huge grin on my face. I can’t remember laughing so much since ‘The 39 Steps’, and this play is a more than worthy opponent! Unlike its predecessors, this instalment of Mischief Theatre feels as though the members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are all grown up and have more important things to worry about than forgetting their lines.
I would recommend this play too everyone and cant think of a single person who wouldn’t find it funny. But I must warn you, if you’re going to watch it you’ll need three things; A sense of humour, an open mind and a spare pair of knickers!
Reviewed by Jimmy Richards
Photo: Darren Bell
The Comedy About a Bank Robbery plays at the Criterion Theatre until 2 October 2016