BWW Review: THE COMEDY ABOUT A BANK ROBBERY, Birmingham Rep
Mischief Theatre's The Comedy About A Bank Robbery has recently embarked on its first UK tour, opening at the Rep in Birmingham this week. This production is the company's third large-scale show, following The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong, and it's also been running in the West End since March 2016.
The plot is as it says on the tin: a comedy about a bank robbery. An escaped convict and bent copper plan to steal a priceless diamond being guarded at Minneapolis City Bank, with the aid of his trickster girlfriend and her new love interest of many identities.
As expected, chaos takes hold and not everything is as straightforward as it may first appear. The comedy is punchy and attacks you from all angles, meaning that sometimes it's difficult to keep up with. However, 99% of the time, the material is unquestionably hilarious.
David Farley's design works excellently, and the bank set stuns as it unfolds like a pop-up storybook. Lining the wings and upstage are cartoon-like skyscrapers and, along with the pre-show music, it's clear from the outset that the show is set in 1950s America.
Farley's design allows for very quick transitions between scenes, and although occasionally a little clunky, the fast pace of these match the speed of the plot. A particular visual treat is the aerial scene in the bank, which needs to be seen to be fully appreciated, but is a genius idea and incredibly funny.
The lighting by David Howe is very localised for much of the time and this highlights the close and effective relationship between Howe and Tour Director Kirsty Patrick Ward, setting the blocking. Ward has also clearly spent a great deal of time with the writers (Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields) to perfect the characterisation of the different roles. The level of detail needed for the comedy material to work and translate to an audience at such a pace is no mean feat; they execute this perfectly.
Original Mischief Theatre company members have become iconic and greatly associated with their productions thus far. Although guidance is given by said company members/writers, the UK touring cast is - on the whole - a brand New Group of performers.
Each actor not only has great comic timing but are exceptional singers too. There are 1950s doo-wop musical numbers with complex harmonies, directed and arranged by Joey Hickman, used to occasionally bridge the scenes, and Ashley Tucker especially (playing Ruth Monaghan at this performance) is an incredible all-round talent.
Only being a handful of performances into the tour, the fluidity is bound to get slicker as it continues, but it's remarkable what they have achieved in such a short space of time. The maintaining of the high energy levels expected is superb, if not occasionally misplaced, so may need controlling a little - especially when interacting with the set.
This play would only work with the entire company being in complete tune with one another. Each and every person has equal worth in the operations of the show. David Coomber is a delightful Neil Cooper with his oddball, eager-to-please nature. He is the perfect opposite to the masculine, if not slightly gullible Mitch Ruscitti, played by Liam Jeavons. Young petty crook Sam Monaghan is expertly performed by Sean Carey, who has wonderful chemistry with Julia Frith as Caprice.
Exceptionally clever and provides a laugh a minute. The perfect antidote to a bad day!
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery runs at the Rep, Birmingham until 8 September and tours the UK until June 2019.