This review first appeared in British Theatre Guide
Kenny Wax and Stage Presence Ltd, in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre present
The Comedy About a Bank Robbery
by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Curve Theatre, Leicester
Bought to you by the team from The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong, the next in the franchise, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, is nearing the end of its first UK tour, having opened to great success in the West End in 2016.
Branching out from the play-within-a-play-that-goes-wrong idea, the Mischief Theatre Production writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields pay homage to the movies of the ‘20s and ‘30s with Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy, along with a dash of Ealing comedy and large doses of 1950s thrillers. I also felt the menacing influence of Feathers McGraw from The Wrong Trousers during the thrilling diamond robbery scene.
Mitch (Liam Jeavons) breaks out from prison, accompanied by an eager-to-please prison guard Neil Cooper (David Coomber). Their mission: to rob Robin Freeboys’s (Damian Lynch) bank in Minneapolis and relieve him of the diamonds secured in the vault. Meanwhile, Freeboys’s daughter Caprice (Julia Frith) is managing multiple boyfriends and now has to add her boyfriend and ex-con Mitch into her scheming. And meanwhile again, she falls for Sam Monaghan (Seán Carey), a bit of a chancer and a pickpocket.
Add to this a further subplot of Sam’s mother Ruth (Ashley Tucker) wooing Officer Randal Shuck (Killian MacArdle) together with a mysterious Hungarian prince and it’s game on as far as ingredients for a heist.
The play is not without its tender moments, though, with the hapless bank clerk Warren Slax (Jon Trenchard) trying his best with Caprice and his cantankerous boss Freeboys.
Every inch of David Farley’s origami-like, multi-layered set is utilised, with much swooshing of doors, hiding in, under and over various objects.
This is cleverly written and brilliantly performed, with the cast’s slick physical comedy perfectly timed and hitting the ‘wow’ buttons. Musical interludes are nicely done, with Ashley Tucker and Jon Trenchard leading the a capella numbers.
The plot is ridiculously and enjoyably preposterous, with callbacks, running gags and every last possible drop of humour in all its forms squeezed out of the long, set pieces which suspend the pace. A case in point is the opening puns involving bank manager Robin Freeboys (Damian Lynch); the gags around his name—being wide open for misinterpretation—are tortuous and smack a little of filling material but we groan along with it.
Stand-out moments for me are George Hannigan (as Everyone Else) having a three-way fist fight with himself (as three characters) and Freeboys demonstrating the relative hitting qualities of a desk, box file and a stick against Slax’s head.
Silly but great fun and, as a comedy bank heist, it’s bang on the money.
Images by Robert Day