The Comedy About a Bank Robbery

A priceless diamond has been entrusted to the city bank, an institution so corrupt that even the security guards are on the take. Can it be safely stored or will it all go horribly wrong?
Oxford Playhouse, Tue 15 January - Sat 19 January 2019

January 16, 2019
Ambitious farce blows away the winter blues

Mischief Theatre are perfectly positioned to sweep into Oxford and blow away our winter blues, even if only for a few hours. The company's third visit to the Playhouse in the past 12 months (having brought both their original farcical delight, The Play That Goes Wrong, and the improvised fun of Mischief Movie Night) sees them presenting their most ambitious show to date.

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is part spoof, part musical, part farce, telling the story of a motley crew of crooks who plan to break into Minneapolis City Bank to steal a huge diamond. Wallowing in its 50s setting with cartoonish abandon, the show ticks off all the expected genre set pieces, from a daring prison escape to an ingenious heist sequence that proves to be the production's high point.

Built on a foundation of sight gags, slapstick and word play, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery's greatest asset is its ensemble, who bring energy and skill that powers the production magnificently. Though initially cartoonish, the cast are able to give their roles life and complexity, elevating the show beyond mere spoof. For the first half hour the show feels, at times, stuck by the needlessly complicated set-up it finds itself in, having to introduce a multitude of characters and competing motivations, waiting for them to clash in the show's second half. And yet once this is out of the way the piece skips along at a terrific pace building to a standout scene when we reach the heist.

As Mischief Theatre shows get more complicated the writers (and founders of the company) Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields throw in more and more elements. Here we have fabulous do-wop songs, asides to comedic seagulls, gravity defying stunts and a magnificent beast of a set. Designed by David Farley, the set consists of a pair of giant blocks at the side of the stage that open out to reveal an apartment, complete with malfunctioning fold-out bed, and the venue of the heist, the bank. There are other tricks that I won't spoil here.

It has been heartening to watch Mischief Theatre go from strength-to-strength, and with The Comedy About A Bank Robbery they have another hit on their hands. While not quite achieving the side-splitting comedic heights of The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong, it is nevertheless a thoroughly enjoyable farce, powered by a fabulous ensemble and a number of outstanding set pieces. I'm already looking forward to the theatre company's next visit.

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