“People need to laugh at the moment and I think we’re really good at offering pure escapism,” Jonathan Sayer, co-writer and Mischief Theatre company director explains.

Following the phenomenal sell-out success of their multi award-winning comedy The Play That Goes Wrong, Mischief Theatre is back on the road with its latest smash hit, now enjoying its third year in the West End.

“The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is not political, it’s not about anything other than being as funny as you possibly can be, minute by minute, and making people laugh,” he explains.

So how does the self-explanatory farce differ from previous shows? “This is not a ‘play within a play’ but you can still expect an incredibly high gag rate, huge stunts like the previous shows, some Marx Brothers patter, singing and bits of acrobatics,” Jonathan says.

“It’s a much more ambitious piece with a big storyline to it, so you really fall in love with the characters and follow their journey.”

“There is also a large element of physical slapstick which requires split-second timing.”

So have there ever been any serious mishaps? “Absolutely – we’ve had broken feet, dislocated shoulders, concussions (I’ve had three), lots of repetitive stress but on the whole everything is very safe and definitely well rehearsed.

“It’s a contact sport I suppose and, particularly with the original team, you get such a huge amount of enthusiasm and people who are really happy to throw themselves around.

“The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is a fantastic example of that, because there are some really big jaw-dropping stunts in there.”

With two shows playing concurrently in the West End and around the world including Broadway – what makes them translate so well into other cultures?

“Pure escapism can be enjoyed by all cultures because it’s not specific to any particular country or place. There’s just a huge amount of jokes and a company happy to be laughed at rather than making witticisms, and that’s very relatable. There’s always characters that you can quickly identify, fall in love and go on a journey with.”


Mischief Theatre also celebrates its 10th anniversary this year – it must be strange for Jonathan to look back and think of those impoverished early days when he sat down with fellow unemployed drama students Henry Shields and Henry Lewis and started writing.

“We’ve definitely been surprised by the success of the company. In hindsight, you look back and you say ‘oh wasn’t that a struggle’ when we weren’t being paid. But you don’t look at it as a struggle because, at the time, it was just really good fun, working with your friends.

“There were certainly moments when we all had to rally together but we’re really lucky to have a team who love being and creating together and share a similar mind-set. That makes it easier.”

So where do they get their inspiration? “A huge influence has been big physical slapstick comedy, tied in with traditional English humour. Fawlty Towers is the perfect example, stuff that is really about status and conflict.

“But then we try to add an anarchic twist such as The Marx brothers and Albert and Costello - that fast thinking and quick dialogue with a million jokes coming at you as thick and fast as possible.

And then Jonathan pauses and smiles before admitting: “There are also, sadly, moments taken from our own lives. There’s a whole list of embarrassing moments that happened to us in real life! I know that Henry Lewis, one of the writers, got stuck in a dog flap once and that comes up in Peter Pan Goes Wrong.”

Currently working on a top secret new project in America, what does the future hold for Mischief Theatre then? “We just want to carry on making people laugh. People approach us with new projects all the time, but really, we just want to stay together, make people laugh, and have fun.”

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is at Oxford Playhouse from Tuesday until Saturday.

01865 305305 or oxfordplayhouse.com