Mischief Theatre, known for the incredible The Play That Goes Wrong, strike again with another exceptional play. It really is physical theatre at its best – but it’s so much more than that. With expertly crafted plot, characters and a beautifully cast team of actors, there’s not a criticism to be had for this show.
Armed robber Mitch Ruscitti escapes prison to steal an expensive diamond from his girlfriend Caprice’s father, Robin Freeboys. When small-time pickpocket Sam Monaghan gets mixed up in the heist, along with am-dram enthusiast policeman Neil Cooper, the team come up with a revised plan together. What can possibly go wrong?
WELL. The play is, as expected, absolutely crammed full of farce. The cast are physically exceptionally skilled, clambering the scenery and scurrying across the stage with effortless swagger. There are also incredible moments of witty scriptwriting, particularly the scene where Sam gets caught trying to impersonate Clarice’s father. It’ll bring tears of laughter to your eyes.
The skill of the cast is easily underestimated as the show is two hours of high-energy, seamless physical comedy. However, the stamina and physical prowess needed to pull off such an exuberant show is mind-boggling. Yet the cast deliver.
Damian Lynch as Robin Freeboys provides hilarious deadpan tones which contrast wonderfully with Jon Trenchard’s adorable portrayal of bank clerk Warren Slax. Ashley Tucker as Ruth Monaghan brings the scenes together with light moments of singing – whilst this could have been irritating, her jazzy voice made this work really well when I wouldn’t have expected it to.
David Coomber is a little overacted as Neil Cooper, but I don’t think this is a bad thing, particularly when paired with the bold swagger coming from Eddy Westbury as Mitch (though an understudy for the role, I can’t imagine anyone playing the part better).
Julia Frith as Caprice gives us a deliciously scheming character and doesn’t hold back in letting her comedic skills shine. This may be controversial – but it’s so unusual to see such a stunning woman perform slapstick in such a free and unrestricted way and it’s refreshing to see.
That brings me to Dave Hearn as Sam Monaghan. Though a last-minute understudy for Sean Carey, Hearn is no stranger to the role. He’s a founding member of Mischief Theatre and performed the role in both the original West End cast and tour. I’ve seen him perform in The Play That Goes Wrong previously, so I know how super skilled he is. I particularly admire his effortless talent to provide comedy without compromising on portraying a realistic character. He’s the true hero of this show and, between him and Frith, carries a lot of the comedy.
Unusually for such a farcical play, I grow to have real affinity for the characters. I’ve often seen much more serious shows and really couldn’t have given a care in the world if they lived or died. In this production, when guns are out and lives are at stake, my breath is held and tears are only one blink away from falling. I don’t want any of these lovable crooks to die – they have become friends, somehow. It’s yet again the genius of the scriptwriters shining through, creating truly likeable characters we all get behind.
If you’re wavering about seeing The Comedy About a Bank Robbery (why have you not got tickets yet?), it’s on at Leeds Grand Theatre until 27th October 2018.