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The Ladykillers of Humber Doucy Lane (or Orton Brimbles if you are going to Peterborough to see it) is a wacky spoof of the 1950s Ealing Comedy: The Ladykillers. This energetic, engaging play will have you smiling and laughing from the moment the actors tread the boards and will constantly capture your attention.
The story in a nutshell: An escaped gang of untalented criminals plan their one last heist while putting on a play as their cover. Pretending to be actors, they board with old lady who reckons she’s the local sleuth.
Five actors play more than ten characters but are ingeniously played so that there was no character-confusion at any point. The costume changes were lightningly quick and the acting was consistently character-specific to the point where the actors never lost the audience or the fast pace.
How did they cope when two characters played by the same actor were in the same scene? Brilliantly! I don’t want to give the game away but it was worked into the play in a fun entertaining way which only added to the delight of the crowd.
The director had integrated as many local references as possible which engaged the audience further. Before the start of the second act there was an element of audience participation where ‘our performances’ were recorded for later use in the play, which only added to our thrills. There were many details in the play to keep your ears and eyes fed to bursting, with plenty of jokes, on different levels and you didn’t want to avert your eyes off the stage in case you missed out on something.
Audience engagement was high and concentrated by the size of the theatre. The actors rose to the challenge presented by their constraints – acting more than one character, playing more than one instrument, changing scenes, and all in such close proximity to us that they look into all our eyes and see the sparkles of delight shining back at them.
St John Mills’ Theatre is tiny yet uniquely warming and delectable. The audience, of around 120 are on both sides of a piece of floor approx. 20 x 10m – which means the set is to the left and right and above the audience. A clever set design allowed for enough scenes to flow with the story and the good use of moveable props were successfully and sometimes hilariously integrated into the show for scene changes.
The experience of fantastically engaging actors, a comedy farce, great use of space and a quirky theatre made it a uniquely wonderful experience and I recommend you get yourself a ticket to go and see it, with it being a small theatre – there are not many seats! This was my first time at The Sir John Mills Theatre for Eastern Angles Christmas Show, it won’t be my last!
If you are unfortunate to miss this play at the Sir John Mills theatre you can always catch it in Woodbridge and Peterborough where I suspect those local references will be amended appropriately.
- Ipswich – Sir John Mills Theatre – until 6th January
- Woodbridge – Seckford Theatre – from 9th to 20th January
- Peterborough – Key Theatre – from 23rd to 27th January (The Ladykillers or Orton Brimbles)