The team behind 'The Play That Goes Wrong' hit the funnybone again
If you’re a plucky producer hoping to get your new show into the Criterion Theatre, you’re flat out of luck once again. Because less than nine months after 'The 39 Steps' shuttered after almost a decade glowering over Piccadilly Circus, it’s now home to the brand new comedy by Mischief Theatre, which, if there’s any justice in the theatre world, will run for even longer.
'The Comedy About A Bank Robbery' is the latest play by the bogglingly prolific and talented team behind 'The Play That Goes Wrong' (or more accurately the 'Play That Goes Wrong' franchise) and it’s their best and funniest work yet. A genre pastiche, screwball comedy and classic farce that’s as clean and clear as its brassy branding, it spins with a manic energy from Two Ronnies-esque wordplay through surreal set-pieces to slapstick stunts prepped to bring the house down.
The story of a bungled jewel heist in a sleepy Minneapolis bank branch, it features a host of hilarious but well-drawn characters who roar across the stage and tumble into disaster after disaster, each one more elegantly drawn than the last. The writers’ ability to snatch a laugh out of every line, and to intricately prime each scenario with zinging punchlines and pay-offs is stunning, as call-backs and running gags pile up into teetering edifices of absurdity.
The entire cast is bang on the money, but Mischief Theatre’s own Henry Lewis and Jonathan Sayer are the standouts as booming bank manager Robin Freeboys and hapless loser (and eternal intern) Warren Slax.
The whole caper’s probably a set-piece too long, a 2 hours 15 minutes is a long time to sustain this level of energy both for a cast and an audience, but 'The Comedy About a Bank Robbery' must rate as the best new comedy to open straight onto the West End in decades. In a year that has seen so many comedy greats snuff it, it’s heartening to see a new generation prove themselves so definitively up to the challenge.
This review is from 2016. The cast now includes Samson Ajewole, Jenn Augen, Jack Baldwin, Leonard Cook, Sam Fogell, Matt Hunt, Chris Leask, Peter McGovern and Holly Sumpton. Check official website for full cast details.
|Venue name:||Criterion Theatre|
Piccadilly, Piccadilly Circus
|Transport:||Tube: Piccadilly Circus|
Average User Rating
3.8 / 5
- 5 star:18
- 4 star:11
- 3 star:6
- 2 star:5
- 1 star:3
Brilliantly punny! I have been disappointed by comedy plays quite a bit through the years and so did not go in with any expectations, although I did like The Play that Went Wrong. The puns were brilliant and I was in stitches through most of the play. I cannot fault the cast, they were on point and hilarious! A great watch, if you do not like a pun or two or a hundred then don't go but if you like a good pun, silly antics and a great laugh give it a go!
I would love to give this one a zero star review. It's the stupidest thing I've ever had the misfortune of seeing. It's as if 8 year olds made up a hilarious joke (for other 8 year olds) and keep on and on with the same one-note joke long after they've wrung any humor out of it (and there was precious little to begin with). The continual "misunderstanding" of one character's name gets old fast, but they KEEP ON repeating it, as if it will get funnier the longer it goes on. It doesn't. Plus the strange "musical interludes" just add nothing (even if the female lead does have a spectacular voice). The "mistaken identity" of three characters that look nothing alike is also mystifyingly supposed to be funny. As is the sight of cast members waving around stuffed seagulls. I just don't get it at all. Stupid from beginning to end. I enjoyed "The Play That Goes Wrong" and had high hopes for this one, but it's definitely a bomb.
I went in expecting not to like this show, expecting to awkwardly laugh along because 'it's a fun night out' but really be cringing and recoiling inside. The name alone made me sceptical - can a self proclaimed 'comedy' ever really been funny? well, yes it can. This show really proved me wrong. The slapstick comedy style along with the 1920s America backdrop, with some soul tunes thrown in, made for a surprisingly charming show.
This type of show normally isn't my thing but I have happily recommended it. If you're expecting West End greats standards then, yes you will be disappointed. But for an evening of out loud laughs, physical comedy and great singing that will leave you with a silly smile on your face - this how certainly does the job!
Pretty rubbish. Bad jokes, in fact more annoying than bad. Very disappointing. Only giving a star because you cannot give zero. Seriously, don't waste your time or your money - you have been warned.
I know that I'm not crazy, despite all the rave reviews making me question that. I found "The Play That Goes Wrong" pretty funny. This play was completely, entirely unfunny.
Let's start with the jokes -- "comedy" is in the title, after all. The jokes were nearly entirely derivative and unoriginal -- I've all seen almost every gag in here in some better form or fashion. The great "Who's On First?" by Abbott and Costello is borrowed completely and less funnily, there's a whole bit about saying "over" at the end of a walkie talkie conversation that is peeled directly from "Family Guy", a repeated hitting of a person on the head to jog and un-jog his memory a la Three Stooges, etc. etc. The gags were also too long by about half. There were a few moments I certainly laughed at, but it was as if the show was entirely aware that these moments are very few and far between. So, they either stretched these jokes out so far that you actually hoped they just would move the hell on, or came back and did they same EXACT gag sometime later in the show, now completely devoid of the element of surprise that actually causes a person to laugh.
Let's move on to the characters. First and foremost, I have to point out something, having seen "The Play That Goes Wrong" and "The Comedy About a Bank Robbery" in a span of two days. In each play, there was one black man in the cast who had what I would call a major role -- the butler in the former, and "Cooper" the cop in the latter. The PRIMARY joke of both of their characters is that they are mentally challenged and cannot read. And all the (white) people in the show point out constantly how idiotic they are, and how much they cannot read. In "The Play That Goes Wrong", the black guy literally has to write big words down on his hand and completely mispronounces them. Then he cries about it, and a white guy comforts him. That's his main gag. In this show, the black guy's character is out-of-his-mind stupid, and even has a line where someone says "Do you read?" and his response is "With help." In the end, before his randomly brutal and unnecessary death, he admits he knows how stupid he is, and a white character comforts him. Sound familiar? And everybody in the audience is cracking up like it's the damn 1950s. I don't know if these characters were originally written for a black person, but it's a terrible look.
I will say every other character in this show is barely more intelligent, which is a problem; you have to be able to at least somewhat relate to characters or situations in a comedy to create the humor. These characters are so moronic that it's impossible to relate. In every situation, unless you COMPLETELY suspend belief, you find yourself completely removed because there are no humans on earth who are as stupid as these people. I'll give you just two examples, the two longest gags of the whole show. The first occurs when a guy is trying to leave a girl's apartment to escape from her ex-boyfriend, who has showed up and will kill him if he discovers him. He tries to leave the apartment about 40 times, and I'd say in 35 of them you can think of perfectly obvious ways for him to get out of the apartment. He dresses as a maintenance man in one part, and the ex says "why didn't you bring your tools?" The obvious thing to do is say, "Ah, they're downstairs!" and get the eff out. He says, "a good maintenance man doesn't need tools" and sticks around for 10 more minutes. At one point, he tries to get out a window, but is foiled because he inexplicably takes his shoes off before exiting the window, and leaves them under the window curtain in plain sight, and the ex notices them. Then, as if he suddenly remembers that there is zero reason to have taken off his shoes, he climbs back into the apartment to get his shoes.. and there's 10 more minutes of this!! Why would one do ANY of that? The other gag requires you to believe that everyone thinks that a ~67-year old white man, a ~25 year old white man, and a ~30 year old black man who are all vaguely dressed like one another are indistinguishable from each other. For 20 minutes.
I honestly don't even want to talk about the plot. It hinges on a person who breaks out of jail to rob a smalltime Minneapolis bank of a rare diamond that some random European prince has entrusted them with for literally no reason at all. The plot holes from there on are innumerable, to a frustrating degree. I know it's secondary to the gags, but there has to be SOMETHING coherent to string it all together. Not the case here. What strings it together are musical interludes where the cast sings in entirely mediocre fashion. And why is everyone like 25 years old, playing characters who are supposed to be in their 50s? It looks like a university production where older actors just aren't available. But they obviously are!
There are also jokes that just aren't funny because they're not funny subjects, or aren't funny because they make the characters literally appear sociopathic. I've already discussed the illiterate black person joke. One pathetic character's only friend is shot, so he gives a heartfelt monologue and then jumps out window and commits suicide, and we all laugh. There are other completely unnecessary, unfunny deaths, seemingly because the writers and cast like the sound of caps guns. There are like 8 shots fired on stage. Elsewhere, Cooper the offensively dumb cop falls into a shredder, fake guts go everywhere, and then literally 30 seconds later everybody forgets about him. Also, the lead actress's father is shot before her eyes, and she leaves him dying without any hesitation. And we find out her mother died 6 WEEKS AGO in a plane crash, and she pantamimes her mom's plane crash death in one of the scenes to try to get her boyfriend to guess how she died. Like, what? Is this supposed to be funny? And she's supposed to be a sympathetic character that the audience likes.
This is a lazy, unfunny show, and one that seems like it needed about 2 more years of workshopping before being put on a stage. But I bought tickets because reviews in reputable newspapers are pretending otherwise. So I'm giving my voice to the few who aren't bamboozled by lowest common denominator humor that requires you to shut your brain down entirely.
I went in fully prepared to be unimpressed, but a weekday matinee ticket isn't expensive and the theatre was maybe 20% full. It was apparent early on that the script was inspired by old Abbott and Costello - style quick and silly dialogue, then warmed up to have a lot of physical comedy, pratfalls, no trousers, and didn't aim for high-brow beard stroking. And sometimes that unbridled silliness is just what we all need. Don't expect to take it in any way seriously, just come for the ride and let go into it.
I've given it five stars which is slightly generous just because sometimes the tone is uneven - British sex farce, circus-grade effects, silly set pieces, genuinely great production design... But if you let that inconsistency go, it's a wonderful couple of hours of entertainment.
Bar and ice cream prices are very fair, by the way, considering the location of the gorgeous Criterion Theatre. Beer is a fiver, ice cream £2.50, both good quality. If you've got £20 in your pocket you can get a show, a pint, an ice cream and still have money over. Why wouldn't you?
Read the above link for my full review. :)
I wasn't 100% sure about it in the first scene but this play just got better as it went on. Very silly humour and a lot of fun!
I'm a fan of what Mischief Theatre did with The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong, so I went into The Comedy About A Bank Robbery with expectations. Where Peter Pan Goes Wrong was very much The Play That Goes Wrong 2, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is a whole new thing. Well, almost. There's no play within a play, and it's a decidedly less British affair, but the same brand of humour has been successfully carried over. The wordplay, the absurd (not to mention ambitious) physical comedy, and general silliness had me grinning from ear to ear.
Mischief Theatre first came into my life in 2013 on a trip to Edinburgh at one of the first ever performances of The Play that Goes Wrong. A self-made company who have got where they are today (e.g. Selling out shows day after day in the West End) on sheer talent and tenacity. I loved their first show so much I went to see it three times taking friends and family along to what I described as 'the funniest show I have seen in my life'. I was extremely excited to hear about this new play but perhaps a little worried that it wouldn't be as good.
Mischief Theatre have achieved a second hit however simply by going in a completely different direction. In many ways The Comedy about A Bank Robbery is much more of a traditional farce than the slapstick The Play that Goes Wrong. The Characters and story are certainly far more developed.
They benefit as well from a bigger production budget, this feels more properly 'west end'. They use every opportunity this affords them to their full advantage from the spot on 50s costumes to an incredible set piece which sees actor perform upside on down in harnesses to appear as if they are being viewed from above.
As ever however the thing that really sets Mischief Theatre apart is there creative finesse in both physical and verbal comedy. From cases of mistaken identity involving a fair amount of accidental nudity, dexterous wordplay and a rollicking story that keeps twisting until the very last minute their new show is endlessly entertaining.
These guys have been acting together for years and it shows. Cutting their teeth at sell out improv show Lights Camera Improvise at Edinburgh they are masters of group work creating scene after scene of energetic, perfectly timed action packed comedy with seemingly no effort.
It's hard to find a bunch of more talented, colourful and witty actors anywhere but if their shows have a fault it is that they can be a bit relentlessly hilarious, all the laughter gets a bit tiring after a while.
Nevertheless its difficult to imagine someone who wouldn't enjoy this effortlessly fun show, granny, grandma and cousin Dave will all laugh until they drop.
Totally fantastic! A great performance. We laughed all the way through! At moments it reminded me of Faulty Towers - with hysterical moments escalating so far you can't not laugh (think Manuel!). Definitely something i'd love to see made into a TV series. I miss this very British humour.
In tears of laughter at the Play that goes wrong and equally exhausted after Peter Pan, this was good, but just off the other two. Stealing a laugh often though. Caper, bafoonery and error always make for a comic performance and there was plenty here, as I've come to expect. As always the diverse cast played with gusto and if like me, you now know their strengths, the experience is stronger. Fake American accents not so go others comment above... That's part of the make up!? Thoroughly recommended as a stand a lone performance and much of the same if you've seen these guys before. The small cast and amateur folly of the performance, their trade marks, are human and understood empathetically by the audience. Remember that these reviews are from the preview week! A great ticket!
Loved it. Totally different from Play That Goes Wrong but funny in a different way. Don't go expecting the same thing or you may be disappointed.
In my opinion it was there best work having seen both the play and peter pan that went wrong plus one of their improv evenings. I laughed so much I could barely breathe at some parts and it was nice change to see the story not framed by the amateur dramatics society joke element. I would happily go again.
After seeing the play that goes wrong my expectations were high... Unfortunately I was to be let down by this play. The first half was... boring it was evident I wasn't the only one to think so as a few of our neighbours did not return after the interval. The comedy very much slap stick rather than witty. The second half redeemed itself in some ways with an impressive set and some amusing lines. We purchased poor seats which even though we knew were restrictive view they were expensive for the fact more than half the stage was hidden from view... The worst part was the number of late comers that the theatre staff let in. I had to stand up for 3! groups during the first half alone.
I was taken to this play - having enjoyed The Play That Went Wrong - by a friend for free, and must say that it was worth every penny I paid.
If you want to see a poor rip-off of Graham Chapman's self-boxing sketch, a couple of fairly good variations on Abbott & Costello's "Hu-Yu" exchange and then have your ears assaulted for two hours by shouting masquerading as delivery, this is the play for you. The bedroom scene in the first half is top-rate farce, and succeeds because you can actually hear what the actors are saying. This is regrettably not true for many of the other scenes. With practice, the cast will learn not to throw away the good lines you can hear and will further refine the excellent timing the play requires.
Still, judging by the audience reception on Press Night, it will no doubt run for months and tour for years and be hailed as a classic of the genre - perhaps it's just a sign of the Zeit-heist.
I am afraid I agree with Graham. Having thoroughly enjoyed “The Play That Goes Wrong” I was looking forward to this new production by the same team. The plot has steered away from another 'amateur production disaster', which is good, but I felt the resultant reliance on verbal comedy was forced in places. The fake American accents were difficult to accept; as was the improbable story-line, although that is farce I suppose. On the plus side, the inventive use of stage craft and the physical comedy that the team excel in lifted the production and produced some of the best laughs. Over all my wife and I came away somewhat confused – we can't say we especially liked it but we were not exactly disappointed either. It was obvious from the audience reaction and some comments we overheard that it split the crowd too. I suppose we should take into account our expectations, which were high after The Play That Goes Wrong. This production is not as good, or as clever. Forget TPTGW, this is best enjoyed as a stand alone farce.
The poster with the bank robbers in black carrying TNT is totally misleading by the way but I suggest you go see the play to find out why.
Not as good as their original work, some funny bits but the fake american accents & they changing style of the play in different sections made us come away disappointed.
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