Friday, 22 February 2019

Heist comedy gets away with it, just!

Heist comedy gets away with it, just!

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery | Oxford Playhouse | Tuesday, January 15

TUESDAY’S press review night for this show coincided with the doomed Commons vote on Theresa May’s draft EU withdrawal agreement and the result came in during the interval.

A few of us were tempted not to go back for the second act — partly out of fascination with the unfolding political turmoil and partly because the show wasn’t quite delivering.

In the end we all took our seats and it got a bit better. It was funny and sometimes hilarious, but it was also clichéd and couldn’t make up its mind what it was.

This is no fault of the cast, who are first rate — especially Eddy Westbury understudying the lead role of bank robber Mitch Ruscitti. They throw themselves into the piece with vigour, their timing is perfect, their physicality committed.

The audience adored it and not for the first time I was out of step with them. The clue is in the title: The Comedy About a Bank Robbery. That’s exactly what it is — a kind of faulty blender for just about every aspect of comedy there is. It borrows from pantomime with slapstick and repetition, from farce with at least three cast members left trouserless in addition to a series of mistaken identities, and from scripted situation comedy.

The result is a whirlwind of scenes and sketches as they milk each genre until the teats are sore. Nowhere is this more obvious than during the course of a far-too-long scene in a bedroom in the first act.

No opportunity is missed to show off and the narrative frequently takes a break to display some form of clowning or other. The result is that it never quite gels — not for this reviewer.

But, as I say here and have done for some other shows, my doubts were easily drowned out by the loud cheers and applause at the end.

Until Saturday.

Mike Rowbottom

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