The Comedy About A Bank Robbery
By Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Sbields
TLT and her own little getaway car broke into the Criterion Theatre to see the latest offering of Mischief Theatre which previously scored a big success with The Play That Goes Wrong, still running, and Peter Pan Goes Wrong, poised to return to the West End.
We have to admit, even if it blots our copybook as theatrical know-it-alls, that we haven't seen either of these, so it was with a hopeful heart and an open mind we entered the parallel universe of Mischief Theatre.
And you really, really can't complain that this is show that doesn't do what it says on the tin with a title like The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. :)
For this play, the writing trio of Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields have decided to locate the action in 1958 Minneapolis (real-life home of the Artist,now sadly, formerly known as Prince, the Coen Brothers and Bob Dylan).
Because the action starts off with thieves in a Canadian prison - well, actually a corporate effort by prison guards and prisoners - determining to steal a diamond belonging to a Hungarian Prince visiting the local bigwigs. Quite what a prince is doing representing Communist Hungary is never quite elucidated, but hey ... :)
Meanwhile the widowed bank manager (Henry Lewis) and the world oldest intern - not sure again if there were banking interns in 1958, rather medical and political ones, but hey ...;) - Warren (Jonathan Sayer) are being regular duped by his daughter Caprice (female Charlie Russell),.
And the cashier Ruth (Nancy Wallinger) has a minor criminal for a son (Dave Hearn) who just happens to know one of the criminals and is lured into the heist. And so on and so on.
Directed by Mark Bell on a cooperative basis with the Mischief Theatre company, the premise seems to be a homage - exactly what that means is explained in the programme - to heist movies with a few recognizable types thrown in for good measure - for example Mitch Ruscitti (Henry Shields) is a Brandoesque bad boy.
Ever since the success of Richard Bean's adaptation of Goldoni's Servant Of Two Masters as One Man Two Guvnors, it seems to us that a new genre has developed of the sketch show play.
But One Man Two Guvnors had a solid plot, albeit filled with variety turns. The Comedy About A Bank Robbery struck TLT and her cohort in crime as plot almost entirely overtaken by random gags and sketches.
So we guess it's a Marmite experience and the audience member is either going to buy into this stuff as zany and laughter-inducing or find it a wearying parade of jokes being milked until, some might say, they curdle.
There's a supermarionation feel to some of the characters - that's a style not a criticism - and, again, you either take to it or you don't. The set design by David Farley is slick, sliding from a Canadian jail via a car journey to the bank offices to a bedroom to the bank vault.
The show took off far more for us in the second act with the heist itself as the would-be heisters (is there such a word?!) clamber for the hot rock as they are lowered into the bank.
All in all, it was a mixed swag bag for we fun-loving criminals. The Comedy About A Bank Robbery may have benefited fro some heavy cutting. Still, it scrapes through into an amber light and it's up to you whether it sounds like a "Wanted" experience or you prefer to avoid the crime scene.