Theatre review: The Comedy About a Bank Robbery

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery

Grand Opera House, York

Despite the fact it had been running in London for a while, I was glad I knew nothing about Mischief Theatre’s The Comedy About a Bank Robbery. The only thing I needed to know was it was from the makers of The Play That Goes Wrong, the rip-roaringly funny send-up of murder mysteries – the play within a play.

The brainchild of Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, it uses the pacing of a 1950s-style Tinseltown comedy as its blueprint. The sort of quick-talking wiseguy schtick that translates the world over.

The premise is simple: a Canadian gang attempt to steal a gem from a Minneapolis bank. However, the first few minutes don’t bode well as verbal gymnastics using the name “Robin Threeboys” is exhausted in every way possible.

Surely you can’t be serious.

I am, and don’t call me Shirley.

A much better gag from Airplane!, the film which for me has long held the record for the greatest gags per minute (GPM).

I do wonder if “Robin Freemen” would have been a better joke, but thankfully that’s just a warm-up gag as characters are introduced, the premise is established and the scene-stealing first act set piece reveals itself like a pull-down bed.

Yes, we’ve all seen that gag before where an amorous couple or single individual are elevated into said bed, but rarely has it been pulled off with such skill on stage.

A game of charades also brings the house down as an identity is assumed and the young anti-hero attempts to assume the guise of old Robin Threeboys.

Later one of those “how did they do that?” gags which is worth the price of admission alone. All great shows need a moment that takes the breath away, and full marks to the cast and crew for pulling off a scene which is as visually stunning as it is daring. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you’ll know it the second you see it.

But aside from some brilliant stunts and the age-old “whoops, there go my trousers” routine that has propped up farces for decades, there are some gloriously silly moments, from seagulls to giant moustaches. Again, all will become clear.

As I was a newcomer to the production, I had no basis for comparison when it came to the conversion from West End stage to the Grand Opera House. However, I do know the more intimate setting worked splendidly. And it’s often the one-liners that are the greatest treasures such as “I do know I hit you repeatedly with different objects just to see which was hardest,” is one of those throwaway lines delivered in a deadpan way which nailed the glorious irreverence.

The fact I could see it all again a day after my first viewing is testament to its brilliance.

(Hats off to my old school mate Kevin McCurdy, who ensured the fight choreography worked a treat).

My advice is if you run out of time and don’t manage to see this York run, do everything you can to catch it when it arrives in Hull later in the year.

The same show will get a different reaction at different theatres, and as much as I adore the York productions, Hull audiences seem more up for a laugh when a broad slapstick farce like this comes to town.

It’s one of the funniest shows of this or any other year. To miss it would be a crime.


Hannah – Credit Where it’s due

This is Hannah. She’s a nice enough young woman. She’s single but happy. Has a car but drove it into a lamppost while wondering where she’d left her glasses. They were on her head.

She’s got a cat called Eric and an interesting rash that gets a bit angry every time Jeremy Kyle berates the great unwashed. Oh, and she wishes she were as smart as Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but is more like Phoebe from Friends.

In this reality, Hannah is the construct of ad folks who spent too long wondering whether to have cinnamon latte or half-caf demi-frothy cappuccino. More time than they spent on their ad campaign. An unpaid intern was sent to investigate how to use a bus. They were told to get a receipt, but they had to let him go at the end of two weeks. The receipt was lost.

“This should generate lots of interest,” quipped Tarquin as he felt that 20 minutes work watching Fleabag on his IPad while leafing through a copy of Heat was enough to touch base with the impoverished punters keen to get their hands on some of that life-empowering plastic.

“Oh absolutely,” replied his second-in-command, Amelie, a millennial named after that movie. Like her friend Leon, she hated being a product of her parents’ whims and preferred to be known as Siri-Alexa.

Unknown to them, Hannah died after stepping off the bus. Her friends at the reunion wondered where she was for about ten minutes, but no-one had her number since they upgraded to the new iPhone and couldn’t figure out how to transfer their address bookThey retired to Nando’s while Hannah was rushed to A&E. Eric was adopted by Phoebe, the nurse who announced the time of death.

The funeral was held at the church a mile from Hannah’s front door. It was attended by a woman called Annette. Tarquin smiled at the fact Hannah’s demise attracted Annette interest.


The news has always been bad. Let’s not be coy. Since day one there was pain, conflict, bad weather, despots. Yes, February 2019 is pretty awful, but that’s what happens when you get 24/7 rolling news and more choice in terms of your news vendors. It’s a given that one flake of snow on the BBC weather centre roof will mean the whole country is under ten feet of the stuff when chances are it has been for weeks but lazy reporters couldn’t be arsed to look further north than Watford Gap.

And inevitably Brexitrump rolls on. The two things have been so intertwined for so long it’s hard to remember a time when a crass game show host wasn’t mentioned in the same breath as Blighty attempting to go solo for the first time since forever. The educated masses know it’s an awful idea, like the C5 car or a chocolate teapot, and yet Heston Blumenthal has made the latter so who knows?

Meanwhile, in the middle of nowhere, a writer continues to stick a chopstick in his head while doing a mind-numbing job because (deep breath) it’s less painful than trying to finding an outlet where a professional features scribe with decades of experience is more respected professionally than the woman who waters the plants.

No disrespect to plant woman. She’s very good at what she does, but it’s one of those nameless companies where plants have a higher priority than the staff. Nurture plants, let them breathe and encourage their growth while letting talented staff either wither and die or make life so difficult for them that they have little choice but to leave.

Clearly the future is in office-based horticulture.

Now where did I leave that chopstick?