I went last night too, and I loved it. Although, as previously said, it didn't have as many laugh out loud moments as the Play, some of the gags were completely far removed from their original work, which is nice to see.
A highlight for me was the addition of the songs. It worked very well indeed. Great show, great cast as always too.
The authors were interviewed on Radio 4 yesterday evening. Sorry I can't post the link, typing this on my phone so no copy & paste function, but it was Front Row 7.15pm 15th April & it's the second feature, think it was about 8 minutes in.
While this has no more laughs than the "Goes Wrong" plays, it gets the same huge amount of laughs without that easy through-line of everything going wrong. It's a terrific achievement, and tickled my funny bone more than the previous benign, nostalgic occupant of the Criterion.
The "Goes Wrong" plays had the feel of having been developed in improv, where you start things going wrong, and kept riffing matters worse and worse to their ultimate conclusion. Increasingly frenetic slapstick and disasters were the order of the day.
This time, Mischief Theatre have grafted a dazzling array of different comedy techniques to their hugely likeable, bumbling and silly personas:-
There is still plenty of raucous slapstick to be had in this play, as well as the physical dexterity and bravery we have come to expect from Mischief Theatre, and in particular, there is that sustained endearing tone of British silliness. But there are also much of the following (without mentioning the actual plot, for fear of spoiling it):-
(1) Double meanings are the source of MUCH verbal humour. I say double meanings, rather than double entendres, because Mischief Theatre rarely ever goes rude and raunchy. If a word has two meanings, count on the wrong meaning being assumed, repeated, escalated and paid off;
(2) Not only is "Comedy about a Bank Robbery" much more verbal than it's predecessors, it's more musical too. Improbably, our Mischief makers have a talent for singing jaunty blues and gospel numbers, in particular in the case of cast member, Nancy Wallinger. The music propels the mood and story of the piece, particularly during scene changes, and because blues and gospel carry shades of darkness, the singing provides a welcome and necessary sense of depth to a comedy that is 2 and a half hours in running time. I generally feel a shallow comedy should end after an hour and a half, but layers of darkness and musicality help sustain a meatier running time;
(3) Mistaken identity, classic trope of comedies since the dawn of time, is doubled and tripled. Knowing that mistaken identity is a typical fertile plot point of comedy, Mischief Theatre makes sure to triple down on the technique, so as to get more mileage;
(4) Repetition is frequently funny, repetition with variation funnier, and super-fast repetition with variation funnier still (because it is virtuosic), and boy, do Mischief Theatre know how to repeat, repeat with variation, and repeat with ultra-fast speed;
(5) Breaking the rules of physics at surprising times is a good way of grabbing some absurd Pythonesque laughs, so watch out, physics, you are going to be the subject of some knowing (and absoltely hilarious) sight gags;
(6) Explosive tantrums and displays have always been funny, as epitomised by John Cleese's Basil Fawlty, and Henry Lewis (one of the most naturally gifted comedians of the troupe), who seemed intially underused, playing a worryingly buttoned down character, really gets some splendid laughs, when he finally blows a gasket lol.
Having had my best laughs with Mischief Theatre at Trafalgar Studios 2 (The Play that Goes Wrong) and at Pleasance Theatre (Peter Pan Goes Wrong), and not having laughed quite as much at the revivals in the West End, I was worried that Mischief Theatre might not sustain their freshness, but this play, going straight into the West End lets me understand that the fault was with me. Repeat visits to comedies simply are never as fresh and surprising as first visits, and this new comedy constantly surprised me.
Utilising so many comedy techniques in this new play, this troupe are building their skills and techniques. They can become even better, and this is exciting.
Their X Factor remains, for me, themselves. I like them as performers, just as much as I like them as writers. Jonathan Sayer's wheedling and whining are better used here, than ever, as Henry Lewis' subordinate at the Bank. Henry Lewis' natural exuberance is initially hemmed in by his brave assumption of the role of a Bank President Stiff, but he gets to mine some unforgettably hilarious Basil Fawlty type veins late in the proceedings. Henry Shields also plays against type, less gradually-unwinding urbanity this time, more a testerone-fuelled bully of a bandit (I couldn't believe it either). And while I missed the Chris Bean of it all, Shields' character is the engine of the entire plot, and without his work, none of this would work. Dave Hearn wins the most loveable Mischief actor award for the third time in a row with his performance of a con artist turned romeo. And Charlie Russell's Katherine Hepburn smart line deliveries, as a sassy grifter, coupled with her all-round physical comedy excellence, mean she gets to be more likeable this time, yet still as pivotal to all the plot machinations as before.
This comedy will easily play to the end of it's run. I could feel the word of mouth buzzing as I left the theatre. Anybody who likes comedy should see this one. It won't change your world, but it will make you laugh.
And with these guys, there may be even better to come.
Sorry for the double-post but I sneaked in an extra visit tonight, having heard changes were being made, I thought that those who saw it last week may be interested to know the opening scene is now completely different, as well as a number of other smaller changes.
Ooh, how does that first scene now work? I remember watching it at the first preview and thinking it didn't quite sit with what came after, so am intrigued to hear what they've done.
Post by theatremadness on Apr 20, 2016 19:46:01 GMT
Currently at the interval. Stalls are packed, not sure about other levels. Audience are *extremely* responsive, prolonged belly laughs from about 2 or 3 lines in and carried on all the way through Act 1. I am bloody LOVING IT and laughing just as much as I did when I first saw Play That Goes Wrong. Different kind of comedy but equally hilarious. Exhaustingly so! Cannot wait for Act 2. Need to see Peter Pan Goes Wrong this Xmas to complete my trio!
Post by theatremadness on Apr 21, 2016 11:09:21 GMT
My goodness, what an absolute riot this is! You have to hand it to them, Mischief Comedy are the absolute geniuses of their field. Such simple comedy, delivered expertly and hilariously. The audience completely lapped it up and roared with laughter and applause from beginning to end, and rightly so. Their special 'defying gravity' scene in Act 2 was just stunning, my mouth was open the whole way through in admiration of their skills. The music was wonderful and really added to the atmosphere and setting, and the sets were brilliant. What they've only done on that tiny Criterion stage!! Also, we finished about 9.50pm. So that's about 20 minutes shaved off from one of the first comments on the thread!
For more thoughts, see Steve's post above.....I can't put it better than that! Press Night tonight, I hope that either the critics leave it alone or they send someone who gets and enjoys this type of comedy (which I evidently do) and will give it the glowing critique they so deserve. I really hope this becomes a long-runner in the West End alongside The Play TGW and I cannot wait to see what the Mischief lot come up with next. To keep up the quality of their pieces in such a short space of time is no mean feat, and to create and perfect these shows must take more time, commitment and skill than any of us can imagine.
I'm pleased from that last comment that it seems they've tidied it up a bit - I think the first night felt so overly long compared to schedule as we started late and had a slightly overlong interval. Guess they've had a very busy three weeks of tinkering during previews!
2. They are either making changes to set or taking some seats off of sale (I suspect the latter). I had booked C2-3 for a performance, got an email today saying "C2 was proving too restricted in terms of the view" so we've been moved. It was a £10 seat (and we booked specifically knowing it'd be a bad view but wasn't bothered), but worth noting they are removing some seats.
One for the Monkey to do a bit of investigation, methinks.
Last Edit: Apr 21, 2016 16:27:11 GMT by danielwhit
I saw this on Tuesday this week, and that prison cell scene was the first scene.
The end few seats on the front rows of the stalls were left empty.
Really enjoyed the play, difficult to say too much without giving away the gags, but there's so much to enjoy - not to mention admire - in this show. I laughed so much, and my worries that this slight change in direction for Mischief wouldn't be as funny as the "goes wrong" plays was totally unfounded. And they can all sing as well. If they ever return to the "goes wrong" format, I'd love them to do The Musical That Goes Wrong!
Worth pointing out that there are still limited £25 Band A tickets available for this every Sunday - discount code is SUNDAYS. Just picked up two row C tickets for a Sunday in mid-May at £25 each. Sounded like the perfect Sunday pick-me-up before a Monday morning...
"C2 was proving too restricted in terms of the view" so we've been moved. It was a £10 seat (and we booked specifically knowing it'd be a bad view but wasn't bothered), but worth noting they are removing some seats.
One for the Monkey to do a bit of investigation, methinks.
For a tenner, you'd see about a tenner's worth of the show. That side would miss a lot indeed. Very kind of them to move you.
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I'm glad Shenton liked it (he's been on a bit of a downer lately with his reviews) but that is a very muddled write up!
What was the opening scene originally - if it doesn't spoil anything? (guess not, if it has been changed.)
Note I haven't seen the new version so don't know when the two threads join, however the original sequence saw Mitch and a inmate played by Chris L in a cell. A clearly bent cop (who turns out to be Cooper) was deployed by other guards to torture them, which consisted of pieces of set being hit, the two gurgling to simulate being held underwater, that type of thing. They are then placed in a sack inside a laundry hamper and were pushed out by the bent cop, with the idea of being taken out of the prison and escaping. But a hamper switch happens and the two find themselves in the warden's office - crawling around inside the sack (infront of, unbeknownst to them, the warden and others), cutting through washing lines (which they think was the perimeter fence), feeling the wind on their face (a fan), etc. They eventually get revealed and jump out of the window, which then leads into the car escape sequence I presume is still performed.
Generally it was good but definitely felt like a slow burn start to the play.