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The Comedy About a Bank Robbery review

Get set for some sparkling entertainment as the hit West End farce about a diamond heist comes to Sussex

Mistaken identity, bedroom farce, painful puns, Marx Brothers-style clowning and missing trousers. We’ve seen and heard them all before but The Comedy About a Bank Robbery goes all out, taking these familiar conventions and bundling them up into one big bag of swag.

On at Brighton’s Theatre Royal Tuesday 13 – until Saturday 17 November, and coming up at Eastbourne next April, it’s another one of the those ultra-silly literally-entitled comedies from the same people who brought us The Play That Goes Wrong. Both have been West End hits and are now touring the country.

In The Comedy…  two convicts jump jail just as a huge diamond belonging to a Hungarian prince is placed in a vault of a small town bank in Minneapolis.

It turns out half their fellow inmates and wardens are in on their supposedly secret heist plan and in a town where “everyone’s a crook” they may not be the only ones with their eyes on the sparkler.

It starts with Airplane-style puns of the “don’t called me Shirley” variety but gets increasingly physical and interwoven. Three people are the same character at one point – one ‘real’, two in disguise, and at least one of them at any point missing their trousers.

In one brilliant scene there’s a play on perspective that involves the sort of gravity-defying contortions from the actors that those who saw The Play That Goes Wrong will remember from the collapsing set sequence. I don’t want to spoil it so suffice to say I initially thought there were mirrors involved then realised the characters had been quite literally driven up the wall.

The play is set in the 1950s, with some nice retro detailing including a hilariously bouffant wig. Scene changes are backed by live vintage-style crooning into microphones… or even telephones. There’s homage too to some famous movies including Hitchcock-inspired silliness with seagulls and a brief but hilarious recreation of the end of Casablanca.

It’s no rough diamond, the gags come thick and fast and slick timing with lines and props and moving parts of the set are crucial.

“I can’t wait for it to start again,” said my nephew in the interval. I’ve never seen him so engrossed in a performance, even leaving his ice cream to melt in its tub as the curtain came back up. He’s 11 and I’d say it’s great for those 10+ and maybe a little younger so long as you don’t mind them experiencing some mild bad language and (clothed) bedroom romps.

We agreed our highlight was the lengthy bedroom farce where the bank manager’s daughter covers her infidelity by passing off her new lover as her father, miming key biographical information to him from behind her boyfriend’s back with varied success. Let’s just say the number of American states with an ‘ass’ sound in the ending is mined to its full ridiculous potential.

Naturally people also get trapped in the fold-up bed, hide in cupboards and all the usual things that we just know are going to happen but are still somehow hilarious when executed well.

Unless you’ve been robbed of your sense of humour you’ll have a good night, so make sure you bank a ticket in time.

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, Tues 13 – Sat 17 Nov, tickets are from £13.  It will also be at the Congress Theatre, Eastbourne 16 – 20 April 2019. 

For the full tour dates see here

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