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Review: The Lavender Hill Mob at New Theatre Cardiff

‘The Lavender Hill Mob’ is as precious as a golden Eiffel Tower paperweight.

Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning

The Lavender Hill Mob has made its way to the stage of the New Theatre, Cardiff and is a golden triumph.

The Ealing Comedy classic has been adored by millions for generations since its cinematic release in 1951.

So it is a brave person indeed who adapts T.E.B. Clarke’s masterpiece for the stage, as Phil Porter did just last year.

But all that glitters is gold in this delightful, funny and clever production directed by Jeremy Sams, and starring Miles Jupp as the non-entity-turned criminal mastermind Henry ‘Dutch’ Holland.

There is seemingly no need for a spoiler alert if the New Theatre audience is anything to go by.

The entire cast is on stage virtually throughout, cleverly adapting a simple set to bring alive the chaotic ‘Lavender Hill’ heist by re-enacting the events at a New Year’s Eve Party in Rio.

Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning

The party guests take great joy in recreating the storyline for the watching ‘film director’ Farrow, played by Guy Burgess, totally unaware of his real motives for being there. Think Slipper of the Yard and Ronnie Biggs. Though this one gets his man.

The play may never leave Brazil, but we are taken on a journey through a post-war London where austerity and bowler hats rein – and not much ever happens in Hammersmith.

It is amid this greyness of 1950s London that the unassuming but ever-so-reliable Henry Holland can be entrusted with delivering the regular bullion runs from the Royal Mint to the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street.

It is under this guise that Holland can mastermind his plan to steal the gold, but he needs to get it out of the country to be sold.

Then unfolds a hunt for two petty criminals to help him. A chance encounter with ‘Pendlebury’ played by Justin Edwards who just happens to mould Eiffel Towers for a living, and in the process, provide a solution to Holland’s dilemma.

If they can melt the gold and get it to France they will make their fortune.

Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning

There follows a slapstick chase across Paris and then, a wild dash to Calais to stop a group of English schoolgirls who have unwittingly been sold the ‘gold’ Eiffel Tower souvenirs.

Chaos ensues but amid the chaos is a tightness of execution and delivery from a hugely talented cast.

Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning

There were laugh-out-loud moments as the hapless Holland and Edwards first rile a Parisian taxi driver en route to Calais, and then wonderful use of the set and beautifully timed moments to create French red tape at the sea port.

Alas, Holland and Edwards miss their boat and the schoolgirls. Further slapstick ensues as they attempt to recover the priceless paperweights back in Blighty.

The cast of Jupp, Edwards, Burgess, Tessa Churchard, John Dougall, Victoria Blunt, Tim Sutton, Aamira Challenger was superb.

There were clever artistic moments throughout, maximising the simple set, such as car chases involving silver trays for steering wheels; a crowd at a football match, a packed Tube train, the aforementioned taxi ride, and palm trees that turn into the Eiffel Tower.

The Lavender Hill Mob is a classic and there is no finer tribute.

Ticket prices start from £14 with discounts for under 18s and groups.

The Lavender Hill Mob production is currently showing at the New Theatre Cardiff until Saturday, 5 November 2022. To find out more and to book tickets, click here.