The Comedy About a Bank Robbery – Review – Hull New Theatre
By Karl Hornsey, May 2019
Mischief Theatre’s third West End production The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is in Hull this week and it would be criminal for you to miss it. I can promise better gags than that in an astonishing tour de force that grips from the first minute with a flurry of one-liners and continues apace from one farcical situation to the next.
Having seen and loved The Play That Goes Wrong last year, our expectations and anticipation levels were sky high, wondering if the same levels of energy, slapstick humour and ingenious set design could be translated to a different time and setting altogether. On all levels, I’m happy to say this production is just as wonderful.
Mischief Theatre were formed in 2008 and have established themselves as one of the country’s leading comedy theatre companies, with their shows continuing to pull in audiences in the West End and on Broadway. This story, written by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields and Jonathan Sayer, draws its inspiration from the American crime films of the 1950s, as well as tipping a hat to the joys of old-fashioned physical comedy performances and out-and-out farce. There are elements of Fawlty Towers in there, some of the more chaotic episodes of Frasier and high jinks with a malfunctioning fold-up bed that remind one of Lee Evans-style gooning.
There is a plot, not that it matters all that much of course, centring on the planned theft of a priceless diamond from a bank in Minneapolis by escaped convict Mitch Ruscitti and clueless prison warden Neil Cooper. Femme fatale Caprice Freeboys and hapless pick-pocket Sam Monaghan are among those also trying to get their hands on the goods, with only inept bank manager Robin Freeboys (brilliantly played by understudy Eddy Westbury) and his 67-year-old intern Warren Slax seemingly there to stop them.
I wouldn’t dream of even trying to describe some of the set-pieces and capers that take place on stage. They really must be seen to be believed. But even taking into account the breakneck speed at which the plot rattles along, there’s time for some beautifully constructed scenes that really stand out and leave you breathless.
Julia Firth as Caprice gives an incredible physical demonstration of charades to help Sam out as he’s caught posing as her father (just go with it), while a scene at the start of the second half sees Robin and Warren precariously perched high on a set at a 90 degree angle to the stage works like a dream. Throw in an astonishing three-way fist fight played solely by George Hannigan in his role as Everyone Else, a side-splitting scene in which bank manager Freeboys’ inflicts all manner of physical punishment on Warren (played with sheer innocent delight by Jon Trenchard) and some musical ensemble numbers from the 1950s, and this is simply a joy to behold.
As I’ve already mentioned, it needs to be seen to be believed. So go and see it.