VIVA interviews Olivier-Award winning writer Jonathan Sayer on his new smash-hit production
| 10th September 2018
Mischief Theatre, the genius behind ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ and ‘Peter Pan Goes Wrong’, is back with another smash hit ‘The Comedy About A Bank Robbery’ and it’s coming to The Lowry Theatre, Salford.
Set in Minneapolis in 1958, the production is about many incompetent thieves all trying to steal a priceless diamond from a city bank. One of the play writers Jonathan Sayer, who is an Olivier award-winning writer from Manchester and the company director of Mischief Theatre, describes the show as full of ‘old school farce, songs, stunts and action.’
“There are lots of different things for many different people”, he explains.
When asked about the specificity of the year and place Jonathan, said: “At this time in Minneapolis, the two cities had just been twinned by a highway. This meant that two local towns had just become a huge metropolitan city.
“This allowed us to have a very local feel to the play, so that everybody knew each other, but also that there was a reason for a lot of high profile events.”
It created the perfect amalgamation of circumstances for Jonathan along with his fellow writers, Henry Lewis and Henry Sheilds, to set this hilarious story.
“The show has been revered for his huge stunts and outrageous comedy but it wasn’t easy getting there.”There was a lot of bruises if I remember correctly,” Sayer laughs.
“We had six weeks of rehearsals which were very hectic. We trained in an air hanger for all the stunts so that meant a lot of early starts for the cast. As for us, we were trying to create the comedic beat whilst also inventing all these elaborate and tricks too.
“It was one big comedy laboratory. There were many challenges but it was exciting and a lot of fun too.”
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery was conceptualized during the writing period of ‘Peter Pan Goes Wrong’.
“We wanted to do something different from the other plays, which were all ‘go wrong’ sort of ideas”, says Sayer.
“To start we just looked at what would be funny. Old school comedy has always been something we’ve enjoyed and we decided to take that. We wanted to be ambitious and turn something that was supposed to be slick and stylish, like a bank robbery, into the opposite by simply using characters that were incapable of pulling it off.”
The cast and creatives of mischief theatre have pulled off some fantastic sell-out shows, but how exactly did the company come about?
“We started small really (Sayer, Sheilds, Lewis and others). The first show was called ‘Lights! Camera! Improvise!’. We would perform on the weekends whilst we weren’t in class at LAMDA then when we graduated we said ‘wouldn’t it be great to do this full time?’. That’s it really we just made a commitment to each other to do this.”
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is not only touring the UK but has a spot in the West End at Criterion Theatre. Since Mischief has two versions of the show currently running it means there are two casts, on in the West End and those that are touring.
I asked Jonathan what he thought about seeing the play come to life in two different ways.
“It’s amazing. We always strive to have a brilliant cast and the touring cast are unbelievable! The energy they bring to the stage and the way they play the roles are perfect. The touring director (Nancy Zamit-Lights! Camera! Improvise! and The Play That Goes Wrong) is tremendous and is steering everyone in the right direction.”
“The characters truly pop and I love that mischief is growing but still feels the same; like a family.”
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is opening at The Lowry on Tuesday 11th of September. You’ll regret missing the biggest heist of 2018 if you don’t get your tickets now!