Andy Howells reviews the UK Tour stage adaptation of The Lavender Hill Mob starring Miles Jupp and Justin Edwards at Cardiff’s New Theatre.
The original 24-carat comedy crime caper is back. The Lavender Hill Mob has made the transfer from the monochrome big screen to the golden tinged splendour of the theatre stage. As Phil Porter’s stage realisation of the classic Ealing film took centre stage of Cardiff’s New Theatre on Tuesday evening, its strongly attended audience discovered this presentation was as fast paced and fun as its cinematic parent.
The Lavender Hill Mob tells the story of unassuming bank clerk Henry Holland who dreams of breaking the monotony of his life by stealing the van full of gold bullion he escorts across London each day. When Henry meets new housemate Pendlebury who makes Eiffel Tower paperweights out of lead, he devises a plan to make his dream a reality. A golden opportunity to realise the perfect crime gets underway and only a gang of total fools could mess it up, of which they do… brilliantly!
Miles Jupp steps into the role of Holland (originally played by Alec Guinness). Looking dapper in a White suit (perhaps a nod to another Guinness film role?) Jupp puts his own twist on Holland, as he recalls the events of the crime of the century at a New Year’s party to a potential film director played by Guy Burgess. Justin Edwards adds further magic and colour with his recreation of Stanley Holloway’s character Pendlebury. There were in fact moments throughout the production I felt I was watching Holloway in both mannerisms and energy. Undoubtedly a fine tribute to one of comedy history’s long forgotten greats.
The party is made up by Lady Agnes (Tessa Churchard) Sir Horace (John Dougall), Audrey (Victoria Blunt), Sammy (Tim Sutton) and Fernanda (Aamira Challenger). The support cast take on a variety of roles in the form of an elaborate parlour game narrative portraying everything from old ladies and bank executives to schoolgirls and policemen. Their costumes are bright and fitting in style for the post-war era. Sometimes the supports barely take a breath before their next character appears in the plot, but this just adds to the frenzy of fun as they help recreate a succession of fast paced comedy sequences and car chases, particularly in the show’s second half.
All the madcap shenanigans are aided by a backdrop of mobile shelves, holding a variety of props from bowler hats to portraits of King George VI and Sir Winston Churchill and a giant postcard screen which geographically moves the action from London to Rio De Janeiro. A giant Eiffel tower allows our two lead protagonists played by Jupp and Edwards to descend on a chase across Europe to retrieve 6 golden Eiffel towers from a party of schoolgirls.
A golden opportunity to see an affectionate homage to The Lavender Hill Mob live on stage, this glorious comedy classic continues to delight audiences. No doubt, it will also encourage many to revisit or discover the Ealing Comedy original and that certainly isn’t a crime!
- The Lavender Hill Mob continues at Cardiff’s New Theatre until Saturday November 5. Visit online for ticket availability.