The wheels of post-war industry were briefly halted on Monday during the opening Edinburgh date of Graham Linehan's new take on William Robinson and Alexander Mackendrick's classic 1954 Ealing comedy.
Designer Michael Taylor's elaborate revolving set became stuck as Shaun Williamson's crazed Romanian gangster was supposed to be clambering out of the upstairs window of old Mrs Wilberforce's topsy-turvy house. The result not only added an accidental comic frisson, it also inadvertently symbolised an entire country attempting to push its way towards a new society, but unable to budge.
This is perfect for a play chock-full of Little Englander archetypes attempting a King's Cross bank heist, planned from the seeming sanctity of Mrs Wilberforce's upstairs room. A cross-dressing major, a pill-popping spiv, a psychopathic immigrant and a lunk-headed ex-boxer are brought together by Professor Marcus, the self-styled brains of the operation. As the quintet masquerade as a musical troupe, they first charm Mrs Wilberforce before blowing their cover, falling prey to their own self-interest (and accidentally embracing modernist composition en route).
Loading article content
Linehan and director Sean Foley have upped the ante of Robinson and Mackendrick's already dark comedy considerably. Regardless of the second-act technical glitch, Taylor's set is a marvel, as is the heist itself, played out in miniature with remote control cars racing recklessly around the house's front wall. The performances are a mannered set of caricatures with edge. While Paul Bown's Profe Marcus is the seemingly respectable side of crime, it's more telling that it is Michelle Dotrice's Mrs Wilberforce who survives, her old money getting newer by the day.