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Posts Tagged ‘slapstick’

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The first time I saw this show was in May 2014 (review here) and it was just about the funniest thing I had ever seen. Since that time, I have seen the two other major plays that The Mischief Theatre Company  have staged – Peter Pan Goes Wrong, and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery – and loved them both. So when I heard that this one was coming back to Wolverhampton, I knew I just had to see it.

I’m not going to write a really long review as a lot of it would be just repeating what I wrote the first time, but suffice to say that the show was just as funny second time around. This time it was an entirely different cast – due to the fact that the original cast are currently performing on Broadway!! – but they put on a superb performance and the whole audience seemed to love it as much as I did.

As before, I found that the jokes came at such a rapid rate that you were still laughing at one, when another fresh wave of laughter at the next one hit you. (Seriously, you could have genuine face ache at the end of this show.)

There were some minor changes from the previous performance…I imagine that shows tend to evolve given the individual talents of the cast members – but by and large the story remained much the same and all the gags I had found funniest first time around were still intact.

Members of the cast were milling through the audience prior to the show – including chatting with my parents, husband and myself – and getting the audience in the mood for a good chuckle. My husband actually ended up going on stage prior to the show proper starting as the hapless audience member who had to help them construct the set that was falling apart even as they were building it.

All in all a great night out. Even though I have already seen this show twice, I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to go and see it for a third time. I highly recommend this for anyone who loves a good laugh (and lets face it, who doesn’t love a good laugh from time to time)!!

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The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is the third play from the masterminds that are the Mischief Theatre Company, following the successes of (the Olivier award winning) The Play That Goes Wrong, and (the Olivier award nominated) Peter Pan Goes Wrong.

This latest play is something of a departure from the format, as unlike the other two productions, this is not a play-within-a-play; it is however as jaw-achingly funny as the previous two plays, proving once again that this theatre company are an incredibly talented group of writers and actors.

So here goes with the story:- It is set in 1958 in Minneapolis, and Robin Freeboys (played by scriptwriter and actor Henry Lewis) is manager of a quiet bank which just happens to house a huge diamond owned by a Hungarian prince. Robin’s daughter Caprice (Charlie Russell) collects boyfriends – usually for whatever money she can fleece out of them – and sets her sights on Sam (Dave Hearn), a young con artist, who is also the son of Ruth (Nancy Wallinger)…who just happens to work for Robin Freeboys at the bank! Matters get even more complicated when Caprice’s boyfriend Mitch (scriptwriter and actor Henry Shields) escapes from prison with a plan to steal the diamond from the bank…

What ensues is a comedy caper full of slapstick, double entendres and plays on words (what would you expect with a character called Robin Freeboys?!) and mistaken identities. One of my favourite scenes was when Sam meets Mitch and has to pretend to be Caprice’s father – I was literally crying with laughter at the incredible performances of Dave Hearn and Charlie Russell.

The whole cast were absolutely spot on and seemed to be having a whale of a time with their roles – kudos to Gareth Tempest, understudy to Jonathan Sayer, and who played the role of eternal intern Warren Slax. It was no small part but Tempest handled it beautifully. Henry Shields and Greg Tannahill were also terrific as Mitch and his hapless associate Cooper. And then there’s Chris Leask, listed in the programme as playing ‘Everybody Else’. No exaggeration here either – he takes on multiple roles with apparent ease, and has a great scene to himself at the beginning of the second half where he shows off a great talent for physical comedy.

This play is absolutely not a musical, but there are some great doo-wop numbers involved during set changes (Nancy Wallinger, take a bow – what an amazing singing voice you have!), which serve to illustrate the time period. And talking of set changes, there is one part of the action which is incredibly clever and daring in its perspective and the way the scene is staged. I don’t want  to give away any spoilers, but it is intended to show Freeboys and Salx from above, and the way it is done is simply ingenious.

Quite honestly, there is nothing at all about this show that I could fault. I loved every minute of it, and the audience around me all seemed to be of the same opinion. I hope this production runs and runs, and I urge everyone to go and see it!

(For more information about the Mischief Theatre Company, or this production, please click here.)

 

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Set in the 1930s, this comedy revolves around Maurice and Arthur (Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci), two out of work actors who stow away on a cruise ship when they are wrongly accused of assaulting the famous actor Jeremy Burtom (Alfred Molina). However, Burtom is also on the cruise ship, along with a cast of colourful characters, which means that the situation goes from bad to worse for the two hapless heroes.

With a supporting cast including Billy Connolly, Campbell Scott, Allison Janney, Tony Shalhoub and Steve Buscemi, you might think that this couldn’t go wrong – and it doesn’t. Well, for the characters it does, but with hilarious results for the viewer.

Tucci and Platt are incredibly funny as Arthur and Maurice, looking for all the world like a modern day Laurel and Hardy (and by coincidence, played by actors called Stanley and Oliver too!) There is a lot of slapstick and the whole film has a very zany feel to it, with all the cast giving it their all. Campbell Scott was for me, the funniest character, as a German member of staff. I have admired him as an actor for a long time, but this is the first time I have seen him in an out-and-out comedy, and he totally stole all of his scenes.

I watched this film on my own, and when I do that, it’s rare for me to actually laugh out loud (very common apparently) but this film actually did make me do that on several occasions. I loved the farce, the cleverness of the lines and the absurdity of the situation. This film has definitely gone straight into my top ten films of all time.

Highly recommend, especially for fans of slapstick, or the old silent comedy films of Laurel and Hardy or The Marx Brothers. Brilliant!

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Year of release: 1998

Director: Stanley Tucci

Producers: Jonathan Filley, Elizabeth W. Alexander, Stanley Tucci

Writer: Stanley Tucci

Main cast: Stanley Tucci, Oliver Platt, Campbell Scott, Steve Buscemi, Alfred Molina, Lili Taylor, Tony Shalhoub, Teagle F Bougere, Allison Janney, Matt McGrath, Richard Jenkins, Billy Connolly

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Hilarious is a word often thrown about to describe shows, film, tv etc., but in the case of National Theatre’s One Man, Two Guvnors (based on Carlo Goldoni’s play from the 1700s, Servant of Two Masters), it’s completely appropriate.

It’s the early 1960s, Francis Henshall is the none-too-bright minder of gangster Roscoe Crabbe – but Roscoe is really Roscoe’s twin sister Rachel, disguised as her brother for her own safety, after her brother was murdered…by none other than Rachel’s boyfriend Stanley Stubbers!  To complicate matters, Francis is hired to work for Stubbers, but he must keep his two gunners – who (as he far as he knows) don’t know each other – apart, and that proves to be a lot harder than it sounds.

Quite honestly, after reading reviews of this play, I expected a few good belly laughs.  What I did not expect was to be literally crying with laughter, but there’s no doubt – this is simply one of the funniest shows I have ever seen.  First of all the music – skiffle band The Craze come on stage about 10 minutes before the show begins, and then during the performance they provide a number of musical interludes.  The music is jaunty and thoroughly enjoyable, performed by very obviously talented musicians.  There are other musical interludes too – performed by various cast members, and all very enjoyable.

Gavin Spokes was absolutely perfect as Francis.  This role was originally played by James Corden, who I’ve no doubt was brilliant, but I’ve also no doubt that he could not have been more brilliant than Spokes.  Francis is loveable, despite all the double-crossing and deceit which is character employs with varying degrees of success.  Shaun Williamson (forever destined to be known as ‘Barry from Eastenders’) is probably the most well known cast member, as Charlie Clench (!) father of ditzy blonde Pauline Clench (Jasmyn Banks), who was due to enter a marriage of convenience with the newly dead Roscoe, but who has since fallen in love with wannabe actor Alan Dangle (a superbly over-the-top Edward Hancock).  Roscoe/Rachel is played with aplomb by Alicia Davies, and I also really enjoyed Patrick Warner as the upper-class Stanley Stubbers.  The terrific cast is completed by Derek Elroy as Lloyd Boateng (a friend of Rachel/Roscoe and Charlie Clench), Emma Barton as Dolly (Charlie’s book-keeper who Francis falls for), David Verrey as Harry Dangle (the lawyer father of Alan) and Michael Dylan who practically brought the house down with his portrayal of Alfie, a doddery old Irish waiter.

The wordplay is fantastic, with many genuinely laugh-out-loud lines – and I also loved how Francis broke the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience, reminding us that this is after all, not real, before pulling everyone back into the delight of the show.  However, as well as a great script, there is also a LOT of physical slapstick comedy, the highest point of which is probably the scene at the end of the first half of the show, where Francis is trying to serve dinner to both of his bosses in the same venue, but without letting them find out about each other.  The cast throw themselves around spectacularly, and I can only imagine that Gavin Spokes in particular must be exhausted by the time the show finishes!  There is also some terrific interaction with audience members, but at the risk of revealing spoilers, I’m not going to give details.

Overall, I reiterate that this is truly one of the funniest and cleverest plays I have ever seen.  Just brilliant from the opening scene to the closing moment.

(For more information about this production, please click here.)

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