The plot is simple but its moving parts are dizzying. A priceless diamond is being stored at a poorly-run bank. Enter Mitch (Gareth Tempest), an escaped convict, with the blueprints to steal it. Mitch just happens to be one of the gold-digging Caprice's lovers. Caprice (Hannah Boyce) is also the daughter of the bank manager (Sean Kearns). And that's the same Caprice who falls for hopeless pickpocket Sam (Dave Hearn). Sam's the son of Ruth (Tania Mathurin), the bank clerk. And Nancy happens to be charming the police officer who's inspecting the bank.
Got it? Add an elderly intern (Mark Hammersley) and a couple of seagulls. Throw it all in a 50s setting – doo-wops and beehives abound – and you're almost there.
The staging is so tight, you watch in fear of a slip up. But they don't come. Instead, there are scenes in air-conditioning shafts, folding beds and getaway cars – all designed for maximum mess-ups – that are expertly delivered. While singing. With perfect timing.
There's a gravity-defying scene that must be a West End first, which caused a collective jaw drop for the audience. There has certainly never been a more inspired use of a coffee dispenser. Director Mark Bell has pulled off this heist magnificently.
The comedy's not just physical. Mix-ups over names, clueless charades and bedroom jokes pile up – and so do the laughs. The script, written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields expertly drops a Eisenhower joke here, a Casablanca reference there.
None of this would work without a game cast, and this one shines. Tempest and Boyce are brilliant as the play's central couple, sparking between theft and flirting. They add a warmth which – against all slapstick odds – carries the play past the finish line not with a chuckle but a swoon. Mathurin as the bank clerk with a dark streak is brilliant. She provides fantastic vocal work throughout and her (literal) high note elevates her to gold medal placing.
There's an ending to give away but it adds a scandalous oomph and makes a standout character shine even brighter. You'll leave strutting along to the final song.
This is simply one of the most original, sparkling productions out there. Everyone in this town's a crook, so the characters say, but this play is an honest to God miracle.
Now booking to 1 April 2018.
|What||The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, Criterion Theatre review|
218-223 Piccadilly, Piccadilly Circus, London, W1V 9LB | MAP
|Nearest tube||Piccadilly Circus (underground)|
31 Mar 17 – 04 Nov 18, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£21.75 - £70.75|
|Website||Click here to book via Criterion Theatre|