Mischief Theatre was founded by LAMDA graduates, and writers, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields. The trio have quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with; penning some of the most successful, and funniest, comedies on the West End. The Play that Goes Wrong earned them an Oliver Award for Best New Comedy before embarking on a hugely successful, sell-out tour. On the back of this, their third play, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery has also recently launched on a tour of the UK. Receiving an Olivier nomination for Best New Comedy, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery also achieved critical acclaim, building levels of anticipation amongst the audience members that had already seen The Play that Goes Wrong and knew exactly what they were in for; a hilariously entertaining night at the theatre.
As with The Play That Goes Wrong, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is brilliantly written. It has a blazing script, packed with amusing one liners, running jokes, witty word play and side-splittingly funny incidents, all delivered with impeccable comic timing. Punchy dialogue is combined with slapstick visual comedy, which leaves the audience literally crying with laughter. The more the play, and the bank robbery progresses, the more absurdly entertaining it becomes.
Unlike The Play That Goes Wrong, this play has more narrative exposition and a storyline which lends it a serious edge. The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is not as farcical, so rather than being a constant barrage of comedy, there are moments where the pace slows and the audience is granted time to catch their breath. There are many exceptional scenes, which are so funny, the audience’s cheeks hurt from sustained laughter. Hours later, my cheeks still hurt from laughing so hard. Lewis, Sayer, and Shields are incredibly gifted writers, whose talent is unrivaled in contemporary comedic theatre. They have produced the funniest plays I have ever seen.
Full credit also has to be given to the outstanding ensemble cast, who underpin the success of this production. Each member of the cast are remarkably talented actors, who push themselves to the limit, physically and mentally. Each actor impresses with their incredible stamina and energy, which endures the relentless intensity of the script. They fulfill gravity defying stunts, in addition to perfectly timed, rapid exchanges of dialogue. Comedy is a hard thing to get right, but each member of the ensemble absolutely nail it!
With impeccable American accents, there isn’t one weak member of the cast. My favourite character is Damian Lynch‘s Mr Freeboys, who has some of the best jokes in the show. Liam Jeavons is brilliant as the loveable rogue and convict, Mitch. Special recognition also has to be given to understudy Ashley Tucker who stepped in to play Ruth on the night. She has an incredible voice and managed Ruth’s role perfectly.
The stage design is also superb, with elaborate folding sets and a stunning, illuminated Minneapolis skyline dominating the rear of the stage. There is one gravity defying scene which is jaw-droppingly impressive and casts an illusion on the audience. This scene is so cleverly staged, with fantastic stunt work and perfectly executed visual comedy, it is the standout scene of the show for me. This is combined with wonderfully inventive, expressionistic use of props to create scenarios. A spectacularly funny car chase is created by using a laundry basket and a steering wheel to represent a car, whilst sitting on a chair holding a handlebar instantly becomes a motorbike. It is a brilliant feat in production design and executed to hilarious comedic effect.
There is no denying that The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is an incredibly funny, hugely entertaining play. It should come with a health warning, as there are moments when I could barely breathe because I was laughing so hard. However, I believe that my enjoyment of the play was hampered by the fact that I had seen The Play That Goes Wrong first. My expectations were set high, as that was the funniest thing I have ever watched in my life. The Comedy About a Bank Robbery wasn’t quite as funny.
Saying that, this production exceeds its predecessor in terms of stunning production design, incredible stunts, and has many magnificently farcical scenes, which made me cry with laughter. With an outstanding ensemble and a hilarious script, executed with perfect comic timing and endless energy, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is still a riotous way to spend a Friday night!