The expert comedy troupe, Mischief Theatre, is currently taking London by storm. Founded in 2008, the award – winning company has two hit shows running simultaneously on the West End.
An instant success with audiences and critics alike, The Play That Goes Wrong won Best New Comedy at the 2015 Laurence Olivier Awards. This madcap concoction uses amateur dramatic societies and the participants who frequent them as its wicked template, where as the title suggests, nothing goes right. A play within a play set one fateful opening night, actors forget their lines or are accidentally injured, cues are missed, and props malfunction.
Loosely based on The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, the show literally comes to a crashing finish when the entire set falls apart.
Successful productions of the show have been staged around the world, in countries including Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Scandinavia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, The Netherlands, The Philippines, Turkey, and Uruguay. Right now an Australian tour is spreading laughter around the nation, playing Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Perth in quick succession.
The Play That Goes Wrong also spawned an equally – twisted close relative.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong, is a tongue – in – cheek tribute to Britain’s long – standing love affair with children’s pantomimes. A one – hour amended version was adapted and filmed for television. Airing last December, the ratings winner also featured David Suchet as The Narrator.
Last year, Mischief Theatre struck gold a third time with their latest work, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. Written by team members, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, the play premiered on April 21, 2016 at the Criterion Theatre.
The brilliant format appears to draw on classic Ealing Studio comedies, Abbott and Costello, fast – talking American films such as Flying High and Rat Race, Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, as well as British farce like See How They Run and One Man, Two Guvnors. On top of these apparent influences, it all feels very much like the board game, Cluedo, delightfully brought to life.
With a running time of two hours (plus one interval), The Play That Goes Wrong is jam – packed with tongue – twisting wordplay, improvisation, audience participation, endless sight gags, physical slapstick, charades, astonishing set pieces, compromising positions, mistaken identities, and split – second timing. With superlative direction by Mark Bell, how the stellar cast are able to sustain the manic energy needed to keep the show fresh and fun night after night, is an amazing feat in itself.
This fiendishly – clever tale juggles three wildly – intertwining threads.
Two convicts are planning a jail break, so that they can steal a priceless diamond. Not exactly the brightest bulbs, their secret plan quickly becomes common knowledge throughout the prison.
The second strand is about a pick – pocket (Steffan Lloyd Evans as Sam Monaghan), who makes a living relieving bank customers of their wallets. He soon becomes involved with a young woman (Hannah Boyces as Caprice Freeboys) who as it turns out, isn’t quite available. She is in fact, dating one of the aforementioned prisoners (Garath Tempest as Mitch Ruscitti).
These two strings are tied together by a third narrative stream. The woman’s bad – tempered father (Sean Kearns as Robin Freeboys) happens to own the bank, where the jewel is being kept under stringent lock and key.
Will the prisoners follow through? Will the diamond stay safe? Will the pick – pocket get the girl without losing his life? Adding to the hi – jinx, are an endless supply of secondary characters and equally complex subplots, that will keep audience members perched on their collective toes.
A true ensemble experience, the show runs with clockwork precision. Yet at any moment, the entire staging feels like it could tumble into a collective heap.
Further, each actor plays a series of parts or alternative identities.
Special mention must be given to Jeremy Lloyd. Playing ‘Everyone Else’, he certainly lived up to that billing. Acting too many roles for me to keep count, some of the quick vocal, physical and costume changes he made jumping from one part to another, left this reviewer speechless.
Two extended scenes are particularly noteworthy.
One involves Sam hiding from Mitch in Caprice’s tiny apartment. To avoid detection, he is forced to find various places to conceal himself. On top of this, the quick – thinking lad must pretend to be the building’s superintendent as well as her father.
Played out to crazy perfection, the second sequence is a mind – blowing masterpiece in theatre design. David Farley’s set not only gives the illusion that we are looking down on the moment from above, a pair of actors are actually suspended from its vertical floor.
The beauty here is that it takes the audience a few moments to get what is being achieved. Once they do, viewers are able to appreciate and savour the elaborate sight gag even more. Fortunately, Farley and the cast have taken this understanding into account, and milk every second to its extreme.
The technical team is completed with crisp lighting by David Howe and Matt Leventhall, bright period costume design by Roberto Surace, John Fiber’s clear sound design (for Jolly Good Tunes), and Joey Hickman’s snappy musical arrangements and direction.
Ultimately, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is wonderful value for all.
It is equally entertaining for patrons who attend live theatre on a regular basis, as well as for customers who are a little unsure of the medium. My advice is to take the plunge, and you won’t be disappointed.
Given how fantastic word – of – mouth has made The Play That Goes Wrong into a such a sleeper hit world – wide, I am keeping my fingers crossed that an Australian tour of The Comedy About A Bank Robbery comes to our shores very soon.