22nd Sep, 2018

Madcap mayhem aplenty as The Comedy About a Bank Robbery comes to The Birmingham Rep

Droitwich Editorial 30th Aug, 2018

THE COMEDY about a Bank Robbery is the latest offering from Mischief Theatre – a company that has achieved phenomenal success over the past few years and has amassed a very loyal following.

‘Mischief’ is the brainchild of three ex LAMDA students Jonathon Sayer, Henry Shields and Henry Lewis, who share a love of slapstick and comedy improvisation.

Like many companies, their journey started at the Edinburgh Fringe where they won the ‘Improv.’ Award’’ back in 2008.

From there they went on to write and perform ‘The Play that goes Wrong’ followed by ‘Peter Pan goes Wrong’ both of which enjoyed long West End runs.

The difference between these and this new show is that they don’t hide it under an umbrella of the worst kind of am-dram where everything that can go wrong, does so.

The last two also had been ‘performed’ by the ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society as its legend. So this new show is a sort of ‘coming of age’ for this quite unique company who’s sole mission is to make its audience collapse with laughter. One is reminded of the song ‘Make ‘em Laugh’ sung by silent movie director Max Sennett in Mack and Mabel when he sings about the Keystone Cops.

There is a plot of sorts – master criminal Mitch Ruscitti (Liam Jeavons) escapes from prison with the assistance of prison officer, Neil Cooper (David Coomber), in order to steal one of the world’s most valuable diamonds.

There then follows two hours of non stop slapstick, taking the genre back to its roots with a cacophony of misplaced clothes, people falling out of windows, getting trapped in folding beds, wardrobes and boxes, getting compromised in accidental sexual positions and a series of unfulfilled romantic encounters before we get to the actual heist.

Here we are into ground-breaking technical stuff theatrically where a special mention must go to David Farley as the set designer who surely must be up for some kind of award as his ever-changing, multi-storied, yet practical settings move as fast as the action. A highlight being the floor of the bank actually appears in real time, not projected on the back wall of the set so the audience is viewing the action as if from the ceiling – quite a wow moment.

Meanwhile the robbers are making their way along the ceiling via an air vent which is at the front of the stage adding yet another perspective.

Moving on from this we travel to the vault where the diamond is in a bulletproof glass case, which of course is alarmed – it can only be deactivated by putting a code into a keypad without touching the floor. Along with Ruth Monaghan the token gangsters moll (Ashley Tucker) our ‘crims’ descend on ropes singing hush a bye baby to send the guard to sleep.

This sent the audience into even greater fits of laughter. Diamond heist completed there just remains a fight to the death for the spoils.

There are some well-sung, great songs and the whole production has a nostalgic B Movie 1950s feel to it.

Also there is a very clever back story of ‘singing seagulls’. However, like ‘Mrs Brown’ and Marmite you will either love this madcap mayhem or like me, whilst admiring it, find much of it tiresome and repetitive, but I was in the minority – can’t say I was a Keystone Cops fan either come to think of it.

The comedy about a Bank Robbery’ continues to provide unpretentious fun and frolics until September 8 when it continues its national tour.

Visit https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk for more information and tickets.

Review by Euan Rose.

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