Mischief Theatre’s slapstick play The Comedy About A Bank Robbery returns for its fourth year at the Criterion Theatre. This West-end hit is fast, hilarious and takes you on a roller coaster of emotions. It has a depth that breaks out of the mould of the comedy genre, but still holds up the comedic framework.
Photo Credit: Mischief Theatre
The play is set in the late ’50s in Minneapolis. The central plot is made clear at the start of the first act, with main character Mitch Ruscitti’s (Gareth Tempest) intention to rob Minneapolis City Bank, which houses a priceless diamond. With the assistance of Cooper, the prison security guard, (Samson Ajewole) and Ruth Monaghan, a con-woman, (Jenna Augen) the group tackles several obstacles of mistaken identities, love triangles and hidden agendas. A phrase repeated throughout the play, ‘everyone’s a crook in this town’, embodies the central idea that no one can be trusted. The play is helped along by a few short musical numbers that act as a relief from the laughter, while the funniest scenes are in the first half and act on the premise of mistaken identities. A game of charades in the middle of the play, to help decipher Ruth’s father’s background, leaves everyone clutching their stomachs from laughing, and the bit is nothing short of extraordinary.
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery has a myriad of characters that all possess different personalities, and one can see oneself in each of them. Several people are after the diamond, and the audience’s affiliations change as they try and figure out who to root for. However, even though there are some great jokes, the comedy does rely on being slapstick for its hilarity, meaning that the production often feels too stretched out. Furthermore, when mild sexual innuendos are mentioned, adults blush, but this leaves younger audience members slightly confused. Generally, though, the play does cater to an audience member of every age, and there is a little something for everyone to enjoy.
The set continually moves around in the play, and the shifts work perfectly between the musical intervals. There is also a fantastic perspective scene, in which actors remain vertical but are suddenly seen from above; David Farley manages to transport the audience decades into the past, from the heart of London to a small town in America. Roberto Surface ensures the actors look the part, as the costume design is easy on the eyes with its pastel pallette—the costumes and the set work beautifully and blend well together. Timing is key in comedic plays; whether physical or vocal, the direction sets the joke in motion. Mischief Theatre, with its large body of directors, have nailed comedic timing, making it appear effortless. The actors played their parts to perfection, and the main characters really stood out and were not overshadowed by the one-liners of the minor roles.
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery makes for a lovely evening, and is a play for everyone. Whether it’s a family affair or a solo one, you are guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face.
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is running at the Criterion Theatre till the May 3rd 2020, and more information about the production can be found here.
Edited by Alexia McDonald, Digital Editor