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A CurtainUp London London Review
The Comedy about a Bank Robbery

"You've been accused of more things than a gay criminal playing Cluedo with McCarthy !" — Freeboys
The Comedy about a Bank Robbery
Mitch Ruscitti (Henry Shields), Caprice Freeboys (Charlie Russell) (Photo: Darren Bell )
Mischief Theatre , the company formed by LAMDA graduates in 2008, which brought us the West End hit, The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong, embark on a new production. They have left behind them the send up of the amateur dramatic company that formed the basis for their first two successes and rely less on the collapsing scenery riff for a beautifully rounded comedy. This means that as well as the physical humour there are plenty of word based jokes and some lovely songs.

Set in Minneapolis in the 1950s, the play opens in a prison where two inmates are planning a secret jail break. It is a badly kept secret as all those privy to it appear on stage — one by one, two by two and one whole family — amusingly showing how a secret can spread. The inmates are aware and use the opportunity to lock up everyone so that they can escape. Their target is to rob a Minneapolis bank. The snag is that no-one is to be trusted with everyone in the twin cities displaying a dishonest or even murderous intent.

The first act has lots of word play, fast patter style like a Marx Brothers dialogue. Someone on a walkie-talkie has his sentences misunderstood as each time he says "Over" it is added on to the previous word like "Hand. Over". "Handover where?" asks the other bank robber. This routine is so enjoyable!

27 year old Jonathan Sayer plays Warren Slax, a 67 year old bank intern who thinks his career in the bank may have stalled. With his bald wig and stumbling gait, you'd never guess the actor's real age. He is a comedic tour de force. The bank manager Robin Freeboys (like Jacobean comedy, these players' names reflect their character) is played by Henry Lewis and impersonated by at least two others. Caprice Freeboys (Charlie Russell) is his daughter, who cons at least three men at once into giving her money, on the telephone, in the days before internet dating. Chris Leask takes the role of "Everyone Else" a masterly quick change achievement in tight situations.

As well as great invention, the telephone stands turn upside down for a scene using them as guitars, there is a wonderful parody of the Mission Impossible jewelry heist with three people suspended from a ceiling rope to steal the jewel without stepping on the floor alarm. For this scene, the designer has turned the set on its side and gives us some clever gravity defying movement. A motor cycle chase is improvised with the actions so spot on that we believe it.

The One About A Bank Robbery is a wonderful comedy at the Criterion at Piccadilly Circus. Some trouser down horseplay with multiple positions might draw questions from children so the advisory is ten years old and above but this is essentially an excellent family show.
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The Comedy about a Bank Robbery
Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shiels
Directed by Mark Bell and Mischief Theatre
Starring: Dave Hearn, Henry Lewis, Jeremy Lloyd, Charlie Russell, Jonanthan Sayer, Henry Shields, Greg Tannahill, Nancy Wallinger, Chris Leask
Set designed by David Farley
Costume: Roberto Surace
Lighting: David Howe
Technical Design: Alan Bartlett
Stunt Consultant: Alex Frith
Musical Director and arranger: Joey Hickman
Sound: Jon Fiber for Jollygoodtunes
Running time: Two hours 45 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 7492 0810
Booking to 23rd April 2017
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 21st April 2016 performance at The Criterion, Piccadilly Circus London W1 (Tube: Piccadilly Circus)
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