The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

Halfway through The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, I am laughing so much I have to take a moment to recompose. Act I has built to a searing, chaotic comedy crescendo as hapless bank robber Mitch (Henry Shields) attempts to seduce his wily girlfriend Candice (Charlie Russell) whilst likeable conman Sam (Dave Hearn) tries in vain to escape the bedroom. Wiping the tears of laughter from my face, I survey the rest of the audience in London's Criterion Theatre. We are a diverse bunch, young and old, theatre newbies and theatre stalwarts, but – without fail – every single person is in fits of laughter. In fact, the couple in the seats next to me are almost on the floor. This 30 minute scene is so fast-paced, so clever, so breathlessly funny – it is worth the admission price alone. 

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is a must-see show, bound to dominate London's West End for years to come.

Fortunately, it epitomises the whole show: Mischief Theatre have provided London audiences with a masterclass in winning comedy – and truly unbelievable staging. The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is a genuine blast from start to finish.

This new show is the third West End brainchild of Mischief Theatre, the young theatre company of LAMDA drama grads who went from the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe to the 2015 Olivier Awards, where they won Best New Comedy for their acclaimed hit The Play That Goes Wrong. For their third outing, writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields – a multi-talented trio who also headline their productions – have produced an all-out farce. Set in the crime-ridden city of Minneapolis in the 1950s, the play does what it says in the title. This is a classic B-movie crime caper – but with the signature Mischief Theatre twist.

The witty dialogue is heavy on the puns – and all about the inimitable delivery. Lewis and co. have perfected the difficult trick of pushing a joke to the very limits, thanks to their spot-on comic timing. The multi-talented cast of nine effortlessly switch between characters: mannerisms, intonation, body language and accents are effortlessly assembled and disassembled. These performers are also part-actors-part-acrobats; The Comedy About A Bank Robbery pushes the limits of physical theatre. The actors leap on and off the ever-changing storybook set with an astonishing ease and grace, their circus-like feats sustaining the show's breathtaking energy. Charlie Russell's Caprice and Dave Hearn's Sam deserve plaudits for making the audience genuinely root for their absurd love story in the midst of the chaos, but it is impossible to highlight one performer. Mischief are the definition of a 'company': this is a show that rides and dies on team work.

Some of The Comedy About A Bank Robbery's ingenuity has to be seen to be believed: in one stand out scene, the actors are suspended vertically on the wall, depicting an office seen from above. Elements of the musical, the one-man show, improvisation and the surreal are also employed. Memorably, a scene from Casablanca is reenacted via a sheet and silhouetted, a car chase is mimicked using flashlights and telephones.

Despite the impressive set pieces, the company's many accolades and their obvious talent, Mischief Theatre keep it, well, mischievous throughout. Everything is done with a knowing wink. The actors involve the audience in the farce without ever entering the realm of the pantomime.

It all adds up to a hilarious and wildly inventive treat. The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is a must-see show, bound to dominate London's West End for years to come. 

Reviews by Francesca Street

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The Blurb

One enormous diamond

Eight incompetent crooks

And a snoozing security guard

What could possibly go right?

Book now for the hottest ticket* in town!

It would be criminal to miss it.

*Beware, pickpockets are known to operate in this area!

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is presented by Mischief Theatre, the creators of the smash-hit, Oliver Award-winning show The Play That Goes Wrong and will begin previews at the Criterion Theatre from 31 March 2016