Lavender hill

The Lavender Hill Mob

Malvern Theatres


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.

Tim Crow


Index page Malvern Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre