Described as Ocean’s Eleven meets the Marx Brothers Mischief Theatre’s latest smash-hit show The Comedy About a Bank Robbery arrives in Chester on Tuesday as part of its current UK tour. We caught up with actor Jon Trenchard who plays the loveable and luckless bank clerk Warren Slax to her a little more about the show.
Can you tell us a little bit about the storyline?
It’s quite a filmic script, it’s about a diamond heist, very, very loosely based on a real diamond heist which happened in Minneapolis in the 50’s, it’s got everything in it you can imagine to do with criminality. It’s got prison breakouts, car chases, gun fights, kidnapping, pick pocketing, fraud, a brilliant vault scene inspired by mission impossible. There are lots of filmic elements including moments where the perspective gets warped, its complete madcap farce, fast paced, door-slamming mayhem, all with incredible characters.
How does your character Warren fit into the story?
There’s a line that’s repeated quite often that ‘everybody in this town’s a crook’ but I would argue that my character is the only one that’s not. Pretty much everyone else wants to get their hands on the diamond at some point. But Warren bless him just wants to please everyone. He’s 67 years old, he’s still an intern, he’s described in the casting breakdown as ‘eternally unfortunate’, he really wants a promotion, he’s had his house repossessed and then everything else goes wrong for him including not getting the love of his lie who is much younger than him so he doesn’t really stand a chance. There’s so much comedy surrounding him, some seriously witty wordplay, physical comedy obviously as that’s what Mischief do so well and of course lots of slapstick. Poor Warren is often the butt of the slapstick jokes; he gets hit rather a lot.
The show must be so physically demanding, how do you prepare for that?
We’ve had some little injuries along the way, we have a fantastic set of understudies just in case anything goes wrong. It is a very physically demanding role; it requires a lot of stamina. We really have to make sure we stay relaxed; we do a lot of stretching and warming up. We always warm down after a show too as well as the stretching beforehand to make sure our muscles are going to be able to cope with the performance.
Are well as being physically demanding you also have the challenge of ensuring the physical comedy looks fresh…
We’re often doing seven or eight shows a week and each time it’s the first time the audience has seen the show so for them we have to make sure the show feels fresh each time, it’s really interesting work because although you’re doing the same show each day and for a lot of the timing you have to be really precise each show feels very different. Audiences in each city are different and you learn certain things are going to work better for maybe people in Newcastle that didn’t work as well for people in Oxford. We’re kept fresh not only by each other but also by the audience. The audience in effect is an extra character that we meet a fresh every night and whose reactions we feed off. It’s always so much fun and always a little bit different dependant on audience reactions.
I believe there’s a musical element to the show too?
We’ve got a 1950’s soundtrack. We all sing acapella, there’s a fantastic element of ensemble that brings I think, when you’re singing together each day you know you can’t do it without each other and I think the togetherness that brings really helps the style of the whole piece and is something that Mischief are so great at; creating wonderful ensembles.
It’s just been announced that Mischief will be opening a new show Groan Ups this year, what do you think makes their work so successful and appealing to audiences?
I think it’s a lot to do with the fact that it appeals to all ages; there are so many different types of comedy within it. Mischief shows really bombard the audience with one style of comedy after another so if there’s some wordplay but that’s not your thing it doesn’t matter coz you’ll get a physical gag straight after. It really appeals to people from all backgrounds and all ages. I think a lot of the elements of comedy that Mischief have reinvigorated are very traditional elements of British comedy , we have such a fabulous tradition of comedy in this country and I think that’s why Mischief’s work is being received so well all over the world. Currently they have The Play That Goes Wrong on in every continent in the world except Antarctica; I personally can’t wait for the penguins to see it when it finally gets there!
Finally are you looking forward to visiting the Chester Storyhouse?
I’ve done lots of touring in the past, this is my 12 tour of the UK but I’ve never performed in Chester or the Storyhouse, I visited Chester when I was doing a show at Theatre Clwyd but this will be my first time at the Storyhouse so I’m very excited about it.
You can catch The Comedy About A Bank Robbery at Chester’s Storyhouse theatre from Tuesday 29th January until Saturday 2nd February tickets available here.