This is the second stage adaptation of Alexander Mackendrick’s tired old Ealing comedy to reach Ipswich this year, but where Peter Rowe’s New Wolsey production felt mirthless and meaningless, Laura Keefe’s version for Eastern Angles pops with wit and invention.
The same broad brushstrokes of the storyline are still present in Harry Long’s script: a gang of comic-book criminals pitch up at an unsuspecting old biddy’s house in disguise, plotting a daring robbery under her very nose.
But rather than masquerading as the traditional string quintet, Long’s crooks veil their dastardly deeds under the guise of a touring troupe of actors, and – surprise, surprise – end up falling in love with the red velvet curtains.
Keefe’s transverse staging is a madcap whirlwind of songs and skits, an imaginative hybrid of comedy crime capering and meta-theatrical clunkiness a la The Play That Goes Wrong, all wrapped up in an endearing air of make-do.
It’s far from slick, though. There are touches of genius here and there, but there are also moments of excruciating, awkward tedium. The uneven cast don’t ever capture the requisite polish, either, but hats off to the impressively versatile, exceptionally funny Emma Barclay, whose simpering, Michael Ball-obsessed nonagenarian is the evening’s saving grace.