What’s not to like about a jolly Ealing comedy classic revival, especially when the talented Miles Jupp is involved? The film was first released in 1951 with a cast of comedy greats headed by Stanley Holloway and Sid James, with Alec Guinness to add a touch of class as the bank clerk, Henry Holland, whose cunning caper comes a cropper in the end.
Phil Porter’s stage adaptation is lively and rolls out the story in double-time without missing any of the subtle nuances : Henry Holland, a lowly bank clerk fantasises about stealing the van full of gold bullion which it is his job to drive across London; courtesy of his new lodger who makes Eiffel Tower paperweights from lead suddenly his dreams can be become reality with an ingenious way to fence the stolen gold.
In the film the story was told by flashbacks but in the stage production, it is acted out by the eight cast characters who play the roles involved in the daring bullion heist. Miles Jupp is tailor-made for the part of ‘Dutch’ Holland with his clipped English accent and looks totally at home in the crumpled linen suit that our humble bank clerk adopted on his escape to Rio de Janeiro where all the action in the play takes place.
Justin Edwards makes a great Pendlebury (the lodger) as the practical accomplice of Holland, doubling up as the Ambassador. Tessa Churchard and Victoria Blunt as Lady Agnes and Audrey respectively have great fun taking on the characters of the cockney duo who are part of the gang as well as much to our amusement Tessa’s irate French taxi driver (everything English was ‘merde’) and Victoria’s rather sexy seagull impression. John Dougall is a fine and crusty Sir Horace, the sort of English chap you would always find propping up the bar in some foreign clime, most probably up to no good. Guy Burgess doesn’t give anything away as the mysterious stranger, Farrow, but has his turn at the end when all is revealed.
The set is cleverly done moving seamlessly between Rio and the night club, to a chase to Paris and if you love a gentle old-fashioned crime/comedy story you’ll love this, especially with the addition of Miles Jupp and the multi-talented cast.