The New Wolsey Theatre, Salisbury Playhouse and Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch have come together to put this classic Ealing comedy out on a new Regional tour.
Based on the 1955 film of the same name (though there is a 2004 remake too), this stage adaptation was written by Graham Linehan (who is best known for his work on Father Ted and The IT Crowd) and first premiered in 2011. This new production has been executed with ease, and combines madcap comedy and criminal conmen to make for a delightful show.
For those who haven’t heard the tale of The Ladykillers – Mrs Wilberforce recently placed a sign in her newsagent’s window advertising ‘A Room to Let’, and she’s delighted when the mysterious Professor Marcus claims it’s the perfect place for rehearsing with his ‘string quintet’. But, as his masterplan goes off the rails, Mrs Wilberforce soon discovers that she is not making tea for a motley band of musicians, but harbouring a hardened gang of criminals and conmen planning the great Kings Cross Train Robbery! But who will take home the money?
Held together by a cast of 7, this small but wonderful cast bring the story to life. Mrs Wilberforce, the often confused but strong-willed old lady, is portrayed brilliantly by Ann Penfold. Equally, each member of the criminal crew give their character a clear place in the plan with their individual quirks, which creates some hilarious results. However, I think the real stars of the show could be the ‘old women’ (well, and cast member who stepped up to the mark in playing two roles…) who attend the concert – you may have seen the call-outs for local women keen to get involved, and the hearty round of applause was definitely deserved.
Staging-wise, this has probably placed itself as being one of the best I’ve seen in the New Wolsey (as of yet!). It never fails to amaze me what they can create in such a seemingly small space. A revolving stage, trains, spooky silhouettes, an impressive little 1920s style house, and more! The underlying score certainly keeps you on the edge of your seat too, making you wonder what will happen next…
Overall, this is definitely a strong start to an always-exciting new season at the New Wolsey Theatre. This play is pretty much a farcical comedy, yet it never feels too over the top like some can. An engaging story, with a diverse range of characters and a barrel of laughs – together, they make the perfect night out so grab a ticket or regret it!
The Ladykillers runs at the New Wolsey Theatre until the 30th September, for more information or to book visit www.wolseytheatre.co.uk.