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The Lavender Hill Mob
7th November 2022 - 12th November 2022
The men who broke the bank and lost the cargo are back! The world premiere adaptation of The Lavender Hill Mob, the classic Ealing Comedy, is heading to Malvern!
Come and see one of the “greatest British films of all time” (BFI) brought to life on stage by Olivier-nominated playwright Phil Porter, directed by Tony and Olivier-nominated Jeremy Sams and starring acclaimed comic actors Miles Jupp (A Very British Scandal, Mock The Week, and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans) and Justin Edwards (The Thick of It, 1917 and The Ferryman).
This side-splittingly funny, fast-paced comedy tells the story of Henry Holland, an unassuming bank clerk who dreams of stealing the van full of gold bullion he drives across London each day. When Henry learns that his new lodger makes Eiffel Tower paperweights out of lead, he devises a plan to make his dream a reality. It’s a golden opportunity to pull off the crime of the century, they’d have to be fools to mess it up …
Come and rediscover this much-loved classic in this brand-new stage play that promises to be the most fun night out of the year!
Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes (including interval)
Showtime! with John Philpott
IT’S Sunday afternoon and the world has stopped still. Full of roast beef, Yorkshire pud and several beers, one settles down to watch the black and white movie on the telly.
Yes, here’s all the usual suspects parading across the screen and providing our post prandial requirements. Jack Hawkins, Bernard Cribbins, Liz Fraser, Peter Sellers… and hey, there’s good old Wilfred Hyde-White.
He’s never looked any different, has he? Always appeared well past 90. It doesn’t matter what film you’re watching because he seems to have been eternally preserved in aspic.
Well, you can forget all that. For writer Phil Porter has done a root and branch remake with this Ealing Studios classic, and pumped it full of throwaway lines, all of which are delivered with the clack-clack staccato rattle of a 1950s football klaxon.
And it never lets up for a single moment. For this wonderful cast of actors not only maintains a fast and furious pace throughout, but also executes some of the fastest role changes I’ve seen in a lifetime of theatregoing.
Of course, this being the Dixon of Dock Green 1950s, the theft of a million quids’ worth of gold bullion is regarded as a victimless crime. As indeed it might have been, if you discount the shock to the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street whose corset whalebones will by now be well and truly splintered.
The action starts in Rio where crime mastermind Henry Holland (Miles Jupp) is holding forth and regaling his New Year’s Eve party guests with the tale of how he committed the perfect crime.
He gives much credit to Eiffel Tower paperweight man Pendlebury (Justin Edwards), once his former lodger, but now an integral player in the successful execution of this daring bank job.
For while the mediaeval alchemists may indeed have failed to turn lead into gold, Pendlebury shows us how easily it’s done. All that glisters and all that…
Both Jupp and Edwards luxuriate in their respective roles, the former as oily and plausible as a modern politician, the latter taking the art of insignificance to heroic heights. Come to think of it, who would suspect either of them?
Porter’s script makes for pure fireworks, the incendiary element further increased by this talented cast’s tireless ability to keep the whole thing bouncing along at a cracking pace.
Meanwhile, the Ealing legacy just about hangs on by its fingertips. Pictures of Winston Churchill, George VI and an appropriate soundtrack keep us anchored in the era, but only just.
The Britain in which crime was just one jolly good caper, where no one got hurt, has long gone and probably never existed in the first place. Down the ages, criminality has always been sanitised to some extent, and we happily go along with the mythology, however absurd that might be.
After all, Sunday afternoons would never have been the same if we’d had to contemplate reality, would they?
Emma Rowley - Box Office Radio
Based on the screenplay by T.E.B. Clarke and adapted for the stage by Phil Porter, The Lavender Hill Mob is a classic Ealing comedy packed full of humour, slightly slapstick movements and great characters.
As we take our seat in the auditorium, the stage set by Francis O’Connor is very busy with lots of props on display, most of which are utilised throughout the show. The main location is ‘The Union Club’ as we open on a New Year’s Eve party in Rio de Janeiro with all characters on stage.
Miles Jupp in the role of Holland plays the quintessentially British ‘nonentity’ with gusto and with the lion share of the dialogue throughout the play, his timing and delivery is perfect. You could say that the show is a play within a play as Holland wants to relay his story to a newcomer in the club, Farrow (Guy Burgess), who we later discover is not quite who he is purported to be. Holland and his friends start to tell the story of how he ended up in Rio de Janeiro all playing multiple roles.
If you have ever watched the 1951 film of the same name, then you will be familiar with the plot, however if you need refreshing then I’ll run through it. Holland (Miles Jupp) is in charge of the gold bullion deliveries at a London bank. He meets Pendlebury (Justin Edwards) at their boarding house in Lavender Hill, an artist who is in the business of making souvenirs that are sold in many holiday destinations, including Paris. They hatch a plan between themselves to steal a large amount of gold bullion with the help of local thieves Lackery (Tessa Churchard) and Shorty (Victoria Blunt). Their plan works and Pendlebury sets to work melting down the gold, making them into souvenir Eiffel Towers and dispatching them out of the country to Paris so they could collect them at the other end. However, their plan falls down at this point, as due to an error with translation between Pendlebury and the French shop keeper, some of the Eiffel Towers were sold to six schoolgirls over in Paris on a school trip. They manage to recover five of the ornaments, however one schoolgirl decides to keep hers and pass it to her Police Officer Uncle. Pendlebury is captured, but Holland manages to escape with the remaining gold Eiffel Tower to his new home in Rio de Janeiro where he has been living the high life.
Now you’re familiar with the plot, we can talk about the incredibly talented actors on stage throughout the play. All play multiple roles within Holland’s elaborate story with such ease. Tessa Churchard and Victoria Blunt show their versatility in their portrayal of Lady Agnes and Audrey respectively; however, they also shine in the various roles they step into. There is a lot of comedy which is captured perfectly. Justin Edwards as Pendlebury brings energy to the role, and again the comedic timing is well delivered.
We also meet Farrow (Guy Burgess), Sir Horace (John Dougall), Sammy (Tim Sutton) and Fernanda (Aamira Challenger) who all bring a fantastic performance throughout. The standout for me being John Dougall in his rather hilarious portrayal as the bank manager, amongst many other characters.
This play is a real ensemble piece, and all actors remain on stage for the full duration of the show. Movement Director, Alyssa Noble has managed to keep the action on stage fluid and every inch of the stage is used throughout, with many props being picked up and moved around to coincide with the story.
A classic Ealing comedy with great humour and outstanding performances.
The View From The Stalls
An ageless comedy brought to life on the stage
It is a curious thing that so-called heist movies are often turned into comic capers where the British are involved. Think The Ladykillers and The Italian Job as opposed to the rather more serious Bonnie & Clyde and Reservoir Dogs. And this is certainly the case with another movie about small time crookery which came from the famous Ealing Studios way back in 1951. The all-star cast of Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Sid James, Alfie Bass and even Audrey Hepburn created a classic which, bizarrely, even made it into the Vatican's Top 15 films in the "Art" category alongside the likes of Citizen Kane and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Lavender Hill Mob takes an ostensibly honest, hard-working bank employee, Holland (Miles Jupp) who was passed over for promotion because he was so, well, ordinary and turns him into a lovable rogue who we first see apparently enjoying the fruits of his labour celebrating New Year's Eve with his partner-in-crime Pendlebury (Justin Edwards) and his new found friends and living the high life in Rio De Janeiro.
The ensemble cast of eight then take us through the story of how he came to be there for the benefit of Farrow (Guy Burgess) who, Holland claims, is going to turn his capers into a movie and needs to know the full story. This is a tale which begins with him transporting gold bullion around the streets of London (with seemingly little extra security!) during which he has the crazy idea that these could be turned into the little Eiffel Towers which Pendelton is already producing - in fake gold - for visitors to Paris.
This leads to some very funny escapades, particularly across the channel, as the cast play an array of different characters - and accents - in the pursuit of the bullion. There is also a very clever reconstruction of the Eiffel Tower itself on stage and the stage itself is packed with British memorabilia to remind the pair of home. Without exception, the cast take on their different roles perfectly, producing the sound effects themselves such as creaking doors and birds over the white cliffs of Dover (and their very funny, much sexier, French counterparts in Calais!) and the urgent taxi ride from Paris to Calais is hilarious, as the driver decides to stop for his déjeuner (a baguette, obviously!) en route. That might be stereotypical but also not far from the truth!
The show is a delight to watch (regardless of whether you have seen the original film) and it is great that a comedy first performed seven decades ago can still entertain modern audiences with a script by Phil Pulman which makes the most of what can be done on a stage with a team of talented performers.
West End Best Friend - Rachel Louise Martin
t’s New Year’s Eve 1949, Rio de Janeiro and Henry Holland (Miles Jupp) and friends are gathered at The Union Club to celebrate. As their evening progresses, Holland insists that his friends help him tell his remarkable story for their mystery guest Farrow (Guy Burgess).
The set design by Francis O’Connor is busy, but functional and cleverly used to tell the story. From hostess trolleys as bullion vans to champagne buckets as smelting pots, it helps to paint the picture whilst also raising a few smiles from the audience.
It’s very much an ensemble piece as most of the cast convincingly take on various roles and accents for the storytelling. Holland, an unassuming bank clerk who has dreams of stealing the gold bullion van he escorts across London each day and having just learned that his new lodger Pendlebury (Justin Edwards) makes Eiffel Tower paperweights out of lead, hatches a plan to pull off the crime of the century.
Adapted for the stage by Phil Porter, from the original screenplay by TEB Clarke, Jeremy Sams’ direction is superb, with lots going on at once but the action and storytelling remaining focused. There are plenty of laughs as the perfect crime goes wrong continuously!
Jupp and Edwards have a good rapport and capture the comedic style of the chosen era well without playing for laughs.
It’s a rediscovery of a classic Ealing comedy that will have you entranced by its hilarity!
Traditional, witty and highly entertaining!
Behind The Arras - Tim Crow
This stage adaptation of a classic Ealing Comedy which starred Alec Guinness tells the story of Henry Holland, an unassuming bank clerk who describes himself as a ‘nonentity’, who plans with his friend the heist of gold bullion in the streets of London. He ends up in a night club in Rio narrating the story which is dramatised by the ensemble cast as the story unfolds.
Holland (Miles Jupp) dreams of wealth and an escape from his mundane job. He discovers his lodger, Pendlebury played by Justin Edwards, makes Eiffel Tower paperweights out of lead, and the two conceive of a device to steal the gold he regularly drives across London in a van. If only the school girls who buy the Eiffel Tower paperweights on a school trip to Paris had not been given the wrong batch!
I have not seen the original film, so cannot compare or rate the adaptation . Because the play presents the story as narrative, acted out by the ensemble cast to a presumed film director, it lacks something of the drama of an unfolding and immediate dramatisation. Consequently the play takes a while to build up.
The blurb describes it as ‘a side-splittingly funny’ comedy which overstates the case. The first act is a light and gently humorous foundation for the second when the comedy does begin to take off. The scenes in Paris are particularly funny and ingenious in many ways.
Miles Jupp as Holland is a pleasantly jolly character, likeable and devoid of subtlety. He delivers his lines well and he develops a delightful partnership with Pendlebury (Justin Edwards).
The ensemble cast around them are slick, talented and entertaining. As they switch snappily from Brazilian patrons of the nightclub, to schoolgirls, to policemen, to members of the public on the bus or tube, they amuse us with their comic sharpness. The use of singing, humming and harmony with their voices is delightful and humorous. The choreography is slick and pleasing, lighting and sound complement the depiction of scenes in a gently witty manner throughout.
The set is interesting and the use of the screen at the back of the set was clever and helped to set the varied scenes of the action. The Eiffel Tower was similarly depicted amusingly and used to great effect.
This play will have a particular appeal for an older generation: some may have seen the original film, some will enjoy the depiction of an England and London from an era of simplicity and Englishness that existed in the late forties. It has a certain charm, crime seems more mischievous and less nasty. However the fast-paced action with witty gimmicks will also suit the young. This is a pleasant evening of light comedy well performed by an energetic and skilful cast.