The multi award-winning Mischief Theatre company, of The Play that Goes Wrong fame, returns to Cardiff with their new Olivier Award-nominated show: The Comedy About a Bank Robbery. Branded as Ocean’s Eleven meets the Marx Brothers, it follows the zany antics of a motley crew of would-be crooks as they attempt to steal a priceless diamond from the city bank.
Written by, but not starring, Mischief makers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields (who were last seen at the New Theatre as a Disney hero, a sadistic narrator, and an anthropomorphic Sylvester Stallone-voiced lasagne respectively), Bank Robbery is yet another winning production in Mischief Theatre’s highly-renowned repertoire.
The cast are brilliant across the board, from Liam Jeavons’ mercurial mastermind Mitch Ruscitti (channelling Nicolas Cage via Peter Serafinowicz), to Damian Lynch as the suavely slippery bank manager Robin Freeboys, and Julia Frith as his creatively cunning daughter Caprice. However, a few performers stood out among the excellent ensemble: David Coomber as the enthusiastic prison guard-turned-amateurish-crook Neil Cooper, Seán Carey as lovable con artist Sam Monaghan who becomes increasingly (and grudgingly) embroiled in the progressively perplexing con, and George Hannigan who is credited as ‘everyone else’, and impressively performs a fight scene as three different characters.
There are some absolute standout scenes here: the prison escape (no spoilers, it’s right at the start) is hilarious and endlessly inventive, on the level of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox. They manage to draw lots of laughs from the way in which the actors portray windscreen wipers, and there’s a really entertaining car chase using laundry hampers (yes, really). And if you do go (which I recommend you do), just look out for a flock of seagulls who might just be the jewel in the crown of this show.
This being a scripted show, I hold it to a higher standard than the completely-improvised Mischief Movie Night – and, as such, not everything lands. Jon Trenchard plays Warren Slax, the bank’s (Paul) Reubens-esque pariah, and is often used as the show’s whipping boy, to the point where it oversteps into upsetting territory – culminating in the scene where Freeboys hits him repeatedly with a book, a cane and a desk. The Freeboys/ three boys confusion wears out long before they give up the ghost; and some scenes, storylines and character interactions feel a little forced or on-the-nose (even for a farce). But the enthusiasm and talent of the cast more than make up for any missteps.
Even if the show wasn’t great (it is), it would be worth seeing for the innovative production design alone. David Farley’s set design is incredible, starting out with a silhouetted skyline of New York at night that effortlessly folds out into a whole slew of different settings as the play goes on. The set design works hand in hand with David Howe’s sublime lighting design, which at one point transforms a bare stage into an utterly entrancing underwater environment. And there’s an incredibly effective bit of staging where they make the back wall look like the office floor from a birds eye view, and simply has to be seen to be believed. This is the kind of magic you can only get at the theatre, and worth the price of admission alone.
Performing at the New Theatre through to 13th October, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is an absolutely unmissable night of splendidly silly fun!