The one where a little old lady harbours five bank robbers?
This age old play by author Graham Linehan, has had another revival but this time on such an epic scale that sees an All Star cast and a fantastic set take home in the Gielgud Theatre in the West End.
The play of unfortunate mishaps stars with a lovely old lady Mrs Wilberforce played by the fantastic Marcia Warren informing a weary village Policeman of a UFO incident that occurred to her last week. The policeman smoothing things over sighs and leaves and the daily dithering of the loveable Mrs Wilberforce continues. Enter Peter Capaldi as the ingenious “man with a plan” who comes to take a spare room from Wilberforce as the deceptive creature, Professor Marcus. Posing as a musician the man whom speaks from the corner of his mouth for the entire production brings his peculiar habits, and record player into the house with a team of four other gentleman, with no real intention of performing any form of classical concerto.
Major Courtney played by a cross dressing James Fleet, a vicious Ben Miller as Louis Harvey, Harry Robinson played by Stephen Wight and a stellar performance by understudy Lace Akpojaro as One Round, all join Marcus using Wilberforce’s house and good nature as a guise for their devious plot to steal money, and using Wilberforce herself to bring the money back after the robbery as no one would suspect her.
As you can imagine in a comedy filled with slapstick and amazing comic routines from a cast of outstanding talent, this plan after the perfect execution of the robbery, slowly starts to fall apart at the mercy of a little old lady. The quintet find themselves having to play a concerto to a giggling W.I. after the money they have recently acquired falls everywhere from the case of a double bass. Once Wilberforce is aware the plan starts to unwind, as does the nerves of each assailant. By the conclusion of the piece the cast is much lighter, thanks to impressive special effects by Scott Penrose and fight sequences by Alison De Burgh.
The cast really do work incredibly well and the understudy was no exception within a role where every character is crucial to the quick fire wit and action that is performed on stage. Director Sean Foley really has plotted out every single moment with the upmost precision in timing that allows some of the best gags in the play to be performed.
But with such a cast on stage performing this text, Designer Michael Taylor really had his work cut out in designing the set. Thankfully he delivers. More than delivers as from the very first rotation of a rustic exterior of the cottage you are presented with a feast for the eyes as the chintzy house of Wilberforce swings into place. Set across many floors the set presents the whole house for you to see. This is perfect for letting the audience learn more than the characters, particularly when Marcus and his gang are plotting in their bedroom whilst unbeknown to them a jittery Wilberforce is making her way up the stairs. The set also next to the main line railway to Newcastle, also has the fantastic charms of rattling as each train passes whilst also concealing many a trap door and effect for the violent ends of many.
This is a perfect example of how to put on a farce correctly. All elements of the production come together harmoniously and although it’s by no means Shakespeare, is a thoroughly enjoyable evening.