The Comedy About A Bank Robbery - Milton Keynes Theatre (
By Quentin Fox

How can you expect me to write a review of The Comedy About A Bank Robbery when I’m in pain? I laughed so hard at the Milton Keynes Theatre I pulled something and now my ribs hurt. Judging by the gales of laughter from the rest of the audience I’m sure A&E must have been packed later. This is not new. When a friend saw Mischief Theatre’s last show, The Play That Goes Wrong, she snorted so hard she got a nosebleed. These guys are more like a health hazard than a bunch of thespians.

The play itself, brilliantly crafted by company founders Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer
and Henry Shields, takes the heist genre and turns it into a non-stop fiesta of sight gags, slapstick, wordplay, farce, surrealism and sheer silliness.
We’re back in the 1950’s and a Canadian gang is intent on crossing into the US to steal a half-million dollar diamond from a rather down-at-heel bank in
downtown Minneapolis. The characters are on the make, on the take or on the fake.  As one says presciently, ‘In this
town everyone’s a crook.’

The relentlessness and absurdity draw comparisons with the film Airplane! but
its comedy wellspring goes back much further; the historical setting signposts the Marx Brothers, Abbot and Costello, The Three Stooges  and the frantic screwball comedies of the 1930s. Knockabout farce? Certainly there’s a satisfying loss of many pairs of trousers.

This is no mere homage, however. This is a complex piece of theatre that involves tremendous craft in its execution: a folding bed that acts so well it could be considered a member of the cast; a dazzling set that
presents an aerial view of the action, and in which gravity gets the best laughs; laundry baskets that turn into cars and a rope trick that would have India’s finest magicians nodding with approval.

But it’s the cast that provides the real magic. Quicksilver verbal exchanges pile gag upon gag – just when you think an exchange can’t be topped in comes the clincher. Impressive too is the physical comedy – a scene
in which one man plays three people beating each other up demands to be savoured.

It’s a fun and frantic free-for-all that appeals to all tastes and ages – teenagers will love the physical stuff and the absurdity whereas the grown-ups will love the craft of a brilliant ensemble at the top of their comedy game. Go see.

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday Nov 24