Mischief Theatre have done it again. After the phenomenal success of The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong, they turned their hand to more ‘traditional’ comedy, and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is the result. While different in style to the first two plays, it strikes me as every bit as deserving of success, and had me crying with laughter for the majority of the time.
A bunch of crooks are plotting to steal a diamond. Their last heist didn’t go all that well, as the getaway driver mistakenly picked up a family from the airport instead. Now, they’re out of jail and determined things will be better this time. However, this being a comedy, things don’t always go as well as they’d hoped.
It’s interesting to see the familiar cast take on such different roles. Henry Shields is surprisingly – and impressively – menacing as lead crook Mitch, while Charlie Russell gets a meatier part as Caprice, the daughter of the banker, played by Henry Lewis. The latter’s booming voice is used to great effect, though it’s not until the second half that he really gets to exert his comedic muscle.
Jonathan Sayer has playing old men down to a fine art, and makes the most of his character Warren, the downtrodden 67-year-old intern at the bank. I was sorry to miss Dave Hearn as Sam, but Gareth Tempest gave a really good performance in the role of the small-time crook who gets mixed up in the bank robbery. Nancy Wallinger plays his mother Ruth, and also reveals herself to have a fantastic voice, entertaining the audience by singing during scene changes.
The staging is more ambitious than ever: there is one particular scene in the second half that is worth the admission price alone. My favourite moments were the long bedroom scene in the first half, and more or less the entirety of the second half, where the breathless pace coupled with some impressive twists ensured my attention never wavered. The sheer energy of the group has to be seen to be believed. The oft-farcical humour relies on mistaken meanings, mistaken identity, absurd scenarios and an over-the-top style that is infectious. The telephone sequences were particular highlights, and I’ll never look at seagulls in the same way again.
Another wonderful play from Mischief Theatre, and I hope it runs for a very long time.