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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery
Criterion Theatre  Spring 2016

Those funny folk who brought us The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong stretch themselves and extend their franchise with a more conventional farce that incorporates all their silliness.

It might meander a bit and it might run out of steam before the end, but there are a lot of laughs along the way. 

Mischief Theatre's previous shows were built on the premise of highly skilled and professional actors pretending to be inept amateurs trying unsuccessfully to put on a show. 

This time around there's a real plot about some accident-prone thieves trying to steal a diamond from a bank vault, an adventure that takes them through a range of farcical situations and styles from verbal wit through violent slapstick. 

A thief breaks out of prison to break into a bank, but first finds himself in a city that seems inhabited entirely by crooks, conmen, fraudsters and grifters of every sort, whose various plots and scams keep getting into his and each other's way. 

His own girlfriend, for example, hasn't exactly been waiting chastely for his release, but keeps a string of sugar daddies on call while taking up with a passing pickpocket. The traffic in and out of her bedroom leads to a classic 'Quick! Hide under the bed!' French farce scene. 

Then the bank robbery plot generates an English farce sequence in which two men disguise themselves as a third and no one, including their fellow thieves, can tell who is who (a situation made even funnier by the fact that to us the three look absolutely nothing alike). 

Somewhere in all this there's a scene built on accidental punning in which 'weight' is mis-heard as 'wait' and the fact that someone's name is Neil leads to a lot of falling to their knees. 

And there's a sequence of Three Stooges-style comic violence. And some frantic charades behind one character's back to cue another what to say. And an actor who's been playing Everyone Else portraying both sides in a fistfight. And a Murphy bed with a mind of its own. 

Every one of these sequences is hilarious, but by the time we get to the Mission Impossible parody robbery itself, the audience – and to some degree the creators' imaginations – may well be exhausted, making what should be the big finish a bit of an anticlimax. 

The play is written by Mischief Theatre founders Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, three guys who have clearly done their homework in farcical styles while finding delightful new twists on the classic models. 

It features the three writers clearly enjoying themselves in leading roles along with Charlie Russell, Dave Hearn and others. 

Direction is credited to Mark Bell and the company, suggesting that any volunteered or invented-in-rehearsal bit of comic shtick that worked was happily incorporated, but the tight and unflagging pacing is evidence of a strong directorial hand and comic sensibility.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -   The Comedy About A Bank Robbery - Criterion Theatre 2016 

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