Writer: Phil Porter
Screenplay: T.E.B Clarke
Director: Jeremy Sams
Reviewer: Simon Topping
This fabulous adaptation of an Ealing comedy classic proves to be an enjoyable romp of a caper, delighting a Brighton crowd.
It is New Years eve in Rio De Janeiro, soon the clock will strike midnight and usher in a new decade; 1950. Henry Holland (Miles Jupp) is the life and soul of the party, handing out money to all his friends in the expat club that is hosting the festivities. With Holland is a stranger to the club, Farrow (Guy Burgess) who, it is surmised by the gathering, is a film producer looking to hear Holland’s extraordinary story. With an hour or so to kill before Farrow has to get on a flight the gang, encouraged by Holland at the helm, decide to act out their friend’s tale to see if their guest thinks it is worth adapting to the screen.
The script, deftly weaved by Phil Porter, follows the 1951 screenplay closely but allows for wonderful theatrical flourishes and funny set pieces. It is packed with daft puns, funny asides and gives space for the actors to produce some fabulous clowning.
Holland is a faceless suit; a nobody. A lowly bank clerk who fits into his surroundings with a quiet contempt. He is in charge of shipping gold bullion from the foundry to the bank and dreams of redirecting that gold for personal use. He doesn’t have the means, until Alfred Pendlebury (Justin Edwards) comes to live in his building. Pendlebury makes lead Eiffel Towers for the French tourist trade and Holland immediately sees the potential of how they could get the gold out of the country once it is stolen and makes a proposition to his new house mate.
As a team the pair go about getting a gang together to steal the loot and what follows is a high energy, silly and engaging caper explaining exactly how the job was pulled off.
The film has Alec Guinness portraying Holland, which is a hard act to follow but Jupp is perfectly cast as the middle class gent with high ideas and loose morals. His high energy performance is wonderful to watch and he excels in the fast paced scenes especially the car chases and the frantic rush through French customs which has the audience in gales of laughter.
Edwards, as Pendlebury, is the perfect foil for Jupp; an excellent clown, the chemistry between the two is palpable.
The wider cast are excellent too. The scenes between Tessa Churchard and Victoria Blunt as the crooks are very funny and lovely to watch. The moments when the cast burst into song are sublime and the group movement is a delight.
The inventive use of the scenery, designed by Francis O’Connor, adds a magical element to the show and the whole cast have lots of gloriously silly moments to shine.
The Lavender Hill Mob is the best form of escapism, a play with heart, humour and soul. Go and see it while you can, and once you have seen it revisit the film too.
Runs in Brighton till 26th November and on UK Tour