Kenneth Branagh is known as one of the great classical actors and directors of his generation and it is this reputation that secured him a year-long residency at the Garrick.

He didn’t disappoint in the first play in the run, as the troubled King Leontes in The Winter’s Tale but I much preferred him as ageing actor Arthur Gosport in Harlequinade and said at the time I would like to see him embrace more comedic roles.

Well my wish has come true and then some in this gleefully silly fifth play in the series, The Painkiller.

Adapted by Sean Foley from Francis Veber’s French farce Le Contrat, it is set in a London hotel with the stage divide into two rooms.

In one is newspaper photographer Brian Dudley who has travelled over from Swindon to get a money-making shot of an accused criminal entering court. His neighbour is the sharply suited and focused hitman Ralph (or John Smith for most of the play), who has also been positioned in the hotel to shoot the gangster - with a huge gun.

Both just want to be left alone but when Brian’s ‘s hopeless attempts to woo back his estranged wife push him to thoughts of suicide, the jittery hotel porter (Mark Hadfield) makes sure Ralph is lumbered with him, throwing his carefully laid plans into disarray.

Whether or not you are a fan of farce there is no denying The Painkiller has a certain elegance, with mishaps such as a broken shower and blind leading to plenty of laughs without feeling ludicrous and Alice Power’s set with adjoining doors used to full effect for plenty of classic gags.

Hillingdon Times:

Hillingdon Times:

Branagh is well-suited in the role of Ralph, intense without becoming a parody, but is able to flex his muscles, both comedic and literal, after his character is mistakenly tranquilised and then shot with amphetamines. He is left lolling around on beanbags with his bottom in the air, slurring in different accents and flapping his arms with abandon, all the while desperately trying to complete his mission and maintain his cover.

We already know Rob Brydon is a master of playing funny roles with an endearingly morose air and he doesn’t disappoint. He brings a warmth to his pathetically self-involved character so we are left, like Ralph, not knowing whether to hug or punch him.

With no interval the 90-minute farce is able to gain momentum and everyone who enters, from Brian’s fed up wife Michelle (Claudie Buckley) to her boorish new love interest Dr Dent (Alex Macqueen) and a burly police officer (Marcus Fraser), gets caught up in the increasingly frenetic action. Interestingly, Michelle is the only character who does not get caught up in the physical comedy, standing elegantly apart in her riding gear and evening gown and looking on as the men wrestle around.

Some of the humour is childish, both men end up waggling around the stage in their pants, and some is a little old-fashioned, relying on the premise that two men in bed together is shocking, and the ending did feel as it it was missing a punchline.

But with such great acting and the laughs coming thick and fast throughout, it was not at all painful to watch this killer comedy.

The Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road. Until April 30. Details: 0330 333 4811, branaghtheatre.com