Graham Linehan’s 2012 stage adaptation of the classic Ealing comedy is a deft and funny ensemble piece that contains plenty of nods to farce in its manic changes of tempo and use of comic props.
Much of the time it is left to the design team to suggest some of the darker elements from the film in which a criminal gang takes up residence in an elderly woman’s home.
All the doors, windows and lintels in Louie Whitemore’s set, which consists of a front parlour and bedroom, are wonky. Chris Davey’s lighting has moments of serenity, but when a train passes or a death happens, the lights are turned directly on to the audience. This disorientating effect is heightened by Richard Bell’s equally disturbing sound design.
Director Chris Honer expertly marshals the five criminals. The pace and timing are tight, and there are some fine comic performances.
As spiv Harry Robinson, Luke Murphy displays a gift for subtle physical comedy. Eric Potts generates plenty of laughs as the endearingly dim One Round. Chris Porter doubles amusingly as a weary constable and little old lady Mrs Tromleyton. Patrick Driver’s jittery Major Courtney positively glows when he imagines himself wearing a dress.
Devesh Kishore’s cold-blooded killer Louis and Rachel Laurence’s Mrs Wilberforce provide more conventional character support, while Dominic Gately’s Professor Marcus offers the clearest call back to the film. Light on his feet, quick-witted, and clearly unhinged, he gives a superbly physical performance.