Written by Graham Linehan, well-known for penning Father ted and The IT Crowd, The Ladykillers is a dark comedy inspired by the classic Ealing film of the same name.
Widely regarded as being one of the staples of British comedy, The Ladykillers is perfectly adapted for the stage with all of the action taking place within the shaky four walls of the innocent widow, Mrs Wilberforce’s home. With slick Professor Marcus at the helm of a ruthless gang of criminals masquerading as musicians, they use the rickety old house as the base for their illegal operations.
Foxton’s pleasingly skewed set design of the lop-sided house beside the busy train line is delightful and harbours many comic moments throughout the show. Graham Linehan’s script is packed with slapstick humour and one-liners and Kevin Shaw’s direction blesses the energetic cast with some cracking visual gags and tricks. There is a superb sequence, for example, when the gang, posing as a classically trained quintet, are revealed squeezed like sardines in a tiny cupboard. A further highlight comes when the felons find themselves being forced to play for Mrs Wilberforce (Roberta Kerr) and her gaggle of old ladies, with smooth Professor Marcus (Chris Hannon) passing the din off as being an experimental musical composition.
However, for the main the show feels like it never quite reaches second gear and there is a sense that the full potential of hilarity in the script is never quite achieved. Nonetheless, the cast all give energetic performances throughout with Chris Hannon as the pompously manic gang leader Professor Marcus. Howard Gray gives a comical performance as likeable baddie One Round, more endearingly known as Mr Lawson and Matthew Ganley gives a strong performance as moody Romanian gangster who does not like old ladies. Henry Devas shows infectious energy on stage as cleaning obsessed crook Harry and Christopher Wright intrigues as a Major with a penchant for ladies clothes. Simeon Truby puts in a witty performance as Constable MacDonald and gives a sterling turn as one of Mrs Wilberforce’s pals. Headed up by Roberta Kerr’s righteous but dotty Mrs Wilberforce, there is no doubt that the cast give this production their all.