Graham Linehan revived The Ladykillers in 2011, Stephen Mangan became The Man in the White Suit in 2019 and now another Ealing comedy, The Lavender Hill Mob, has been adapted for the theatre.
The 1951 film, in which a Bank of England employee and his lodger hatch a plan to purloin a vast amount of gold bullion, will star Miles Jupp and Justin Edwards and tour the UK this autumn. The pair had been due to star together in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Comedy of Errors, which was delayed by Covid and staged last summer with a different cast.
The Lavender Hill Mob is a continental caper with a plot that pings between postwar London and Paris and involves a haul of extra-valuable Eiffel tower paperweights. Jupp will play bank clerk Henry Holland (played on screen by Alec Guinness) and Edwards has been cast as his accomplice, Alfred Pendlebury (portrayed by Stanley Holloway in the film). The adaptation is by Phil Porter, based on TEB Clarke’s screenplay, and it will be directed by Jeremy Sams. The tour begins at the Everyman theatre, Cheltenham, in October and runs until February.
Jupp, a lifelong Ealing fan, fondly recalled watching Ealing comedies such as Passport to Pimlico and Kind Hearts and Coronets as a child. “They’re great fun films,” he said. “This adaptation is cleverly done and turns it into a close-knit ensemble piece … It’s got a ‘let’s do the show right here’ kind of vibe.” The films of Ealing Studios’ golden era in the 1940s and 50s portrayed a broad cross-section of British society, I have suggested, from the factories of The Man in the White Suit to the “aristocratic world” of Kind Hearts and Coronets.
He described Edwards as “one of my great great chums” and said they had been looking to pair up in a play for some time and were attracted to the heist element of The Lavender Hill Mob. “Justin and I aren’t the kind of actors who would end up in Ocean’s 11 robbing the Bellagio or doing a fancy modern cyber crime. This is the second play in a row that I’ve worn a bowler hat. That’s turned out to be my stage niche.” In 2019, I have toured the solo show The Life I Lead, about the English character actor David Tomlinson, best known for Mary Poppins.
Touring, whether as a standup or an actor, has a special allure for Jupp who marveled at “turning up in a town you feel you have no connection with and yet there’s an audience there who have come to see the thing you’re doing. I always find that magical.”