Mischief Theatre is back with its most ambitious offering yet and what a triumph it turns out to be. If you’ve yet to have the pleasure, this is the group that scored West End hits with The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong — the first is an Olivier winner still running at the Duchess Theatre, while Pan is set to return later this year.
It’s once again scripted by the core team of writer/performers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, but no doubt with input from the hugely talented Mischief team, whose roots lie in improvisation. Moving away from the play-within-a-play format of the earlier shows, Bank Robbery is a more traditional farce, but with new twists and envelopes well and truly pushed.
Writers/performers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
So, at this point in a review, it’s traditional to offer a bit of plot, but where to start? Erm, it’s about a bank robbery. But mixed in there are double-crossings, infidelity, mistaken identities and, in the best tradition of the genre, trousers are duly dropped.
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The cast produces a display of physical comedy and inspired wordplay that never flags for a second. The choreography of the set pieces is masterly, full of invention and surprises. Just when you think you’ve seen the highlight, they go and top it. Yes, some of the jokes are corny, but delivered with such aplomb you can’t help but laugh like a drain.
David Farley’s brilliantly conceived set is a star in itself — one scene in which the would-be robbers crawl through the ventilation system of the bank is quite dizzying in its execution.
I saw The Play That Goes Wrong when it was no more than an hour long performed above the Old Red Lion in Islington. I came out and bored everyone I could find about this hilarious comedy group who were going to be huge. I’m happy to say I was proved right and they deserve every bit of their success.
The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is currently running at the Criterion Theatre
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