THE Lavender Hill Mob became one of the most famous British films ever, starring Alec Guinness as unassuming bank clerk Henry Holland planning a gold bullion raid.

The film was made in 1951 and is still revered today, so bringing the story to the stage is a daunting task. Miles Jupp has taken on the role, and says he has avoided watching the classic Ealing comedy.

“Yes, because you have to approach it as a new piece of writing that has to stand on its own two feet,” says the actor, singer, comedian and presenter. “Likewise, you don’t want to do an impression of someone else’s work.

“But I’m a big fan of the Ealing films and with The Lavender Hill Mob there’s a jolliness to it. People enjoy a heist and the film, along with the play, is a jolly one.”

The main character, Henry Holland, dreams of stealing the van full of gold bullion he drives across London each day. When he learns that his new lodger makes Eiffel Tower paperweights out of lead, he devises a plan to make his dream a reality using that skill.

“Henry Holland is a fastidious guy and a planner, a sort of details man, but he becomes restless and ultimately uses his attention to detail for nefarious means, namely a bank robbery,” explains Miles. “He’s a lot of fun to play, especially if you like lots of words, which I do.

“Also, the heist element appeals to people and the idea of good guys doing bad things. It’s not a story that starts with somebody being released from prison and deciding what the next job is, it’s about somebody who has had a responsible job for 20 years, then decides it’s time for some adventure.

“It’s about what we in Britain class as an underdog, a nonentity as Henry Holland describes himself,” says Miles. “He’s a peculiarly British type of hero and wearing high-waisted trousers and using some needlessly florid language is my idea of nice work.”

The humour of the film also appeals to Jupp, who began his career as a stand-up comedian before playing the role of the inventor Archie in the children’s television series Balamory. His latest TV appearance is as Major Alfred Knox in SAS Rogue Heroes.

The Lavender Hill Mob is at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford from Tuesday to Saturday next week, 24 to 28 January.