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“Deadly funny and executed perfectly”: review of ‘The Comedy About A Bank Robbery’

Are you familiar with Mischief Theatre? They’re a troupe of incredibly funny comic actors who first came to my attention in some of their brilliant ‘pantomimes gone wrong’ on the BBC. So, when I learned they were coming to the Belgrade, I couldn’t past up the opportunity to go and see them. And, if you have the chance, make sure you don’t miss out either – The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is a wonderful and hilarious night of theatre, in which everything clicks perfectly and you’ll have a really fun time.

It’s Minneapolis, 1958, and Mitch Ruscitti (Liam Jeavons) has escaped from prison, his former guard and now extremely enthusiastic collaborator Neil Cooper (David Coomber) at his side. Mitch has a plan for a big job – the father of his girlfriend Caprice Freeboys (Julia Frith) runs a bank, which has been entrusted with a priceless diamond. However, the situation quickly evolves into a screwball comedy full of mistaken identities and hidden agendas. As small-time crook Sam (Seán Carey) gets involved with the plan, and manager Robin Freeboys (Damian Lynch) and FBI Officer Shuck (Killian Macardle) throw up hurdles, will the crooks succeed with their caper? And who will end up bagging the jewel?

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is a wonderful and hilarious night of theatre, in which everything clicks perfectly and you’ll have a really fun time.

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery balances a comedic line very successfully – it thrives on its moments of stupidity (a misunderstanding about a man “Robin Freeboys” leaps to mind – naturally, it only gets sillier when his cousin Roger comes along), but it is extremely well put together, with the farce building and never really letting go until the show’s climax. There are two scenes, set in Caprice’s bedroom and in the opening stages of the bank robbery, which are wonderful examples of perfectly-judged and increasingly escalating comedy – the jokes come thick and fast, and the cast shine. Even smaller scenes are laden with humour, with a running gag about increasingly moustachioed members of the police getting a round of applause.

It’s also worth drawing attention to some of the set-pieces in this show, because they’re exquisitely realised. The company are completely at home in the space, with a bank vault transforming into a car chase and a river before our very eyes. I don’t want to spoil one of the effects, in part because it contributes so well to the humour of the scene, but there’s a 90° inversion of the stage at one point, which is also stunningly realised. We don’t often laud praise on the set designers, but David Farley’s work here is fantastic.

The jokes come thick and fast, and the cast shine.

When it comes to the cast, there’s not a weak link among them – I’m going to highlight some performances that really stuck with me, but rest assured that every actor delivers. You could argue that each and every one of the cast was the standout, and it’d be difficult to disagree. George Hannigan is credited as ‘Everyone Else’ – he plays all the side characters and minor roles (not that you notice, as he makes them all unique), and I want to draw particular focus to a three-way fight scene in which he is every participant. It’s deadly funny, and executed perfectly.

Julia Frith, in her professional debut, dazzles as Caprice, and she shares a wonderful chemistry with Carey – the two bounce off each other in some hilarious scenes, including a wonderfully stupid effort at bedroom charades (I shan’t spoil it for you, but it seems to build forever and only get funnier). The uber-enthusiastic Coomber is a fun comic actor – a stark contrast to the deadpan Lynch, but they both have no trouble in finding a lot of laughs. Ashley Tucker is also phenomenal – playing Sam’s mother, she shines as a comic, but also contributes to some interludes with a voice right out of musical theatre.

You could argue that each and every one of the cast was the standout, and it’d be difficult to disagree.

For all the fun of the show, there are also elements of actual jeopardy, when things get really serious. A lot of kudos goes to Jeavons on this front – even though he’s very funny throughout, he never loses sight of the fact that his character is a dangerous criminal, and his flips between the two (especially in the latter portion of the play, as the tension begins to rise) only increase that feeling of dangerousness. We even get a bit of unexpected pathos in Jon Trenchard’s performance of Warren Slax, a bank employee leading a somewhat tragic life – the play seemingly has everything.

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is superbly directed, well-acted and incredibly funny – make sure you catch it, and you’ll be guaranteed a night of laughter that you certainly won’t regret.

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is at the Belgrade Theatre until March 9, and on tour until June 8. You can buy tickets here.

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