THE LADYKILLERS: Adapted by Graham Linehan.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 10m: one interval: till 3rd November.
Performance times: 7.30pm, matinees 2.00pm Wed and 2.30pm Sat.
Review: Alan Geary: 29th October 2012.
A worthy adaptation of the great Ealing comedy.
A gang of criminals, misfits to a man, pose as a string quintet in order to lodge with Mrs Wilberforce, a dear little old widow living right next door to King’s Cross Station. They’re planning to rob a huge amount of lolly and then scarper.
The Ladykillers was a classic Ealing comedy of the Fifties, arguably one of the greatest ever British films. But this stage adaptation by Graham Linehan – writer of Father Ted – deserves to be judged on its own merits. Directed by Sean Foley, it’s splendid entertainment.
The two most remarkable features of this production are the set and special effects. It’s a wickedly skewed house interior – subsidence caused by wartime bomb damage we’re told. Every time a train leaves the station lights go on and off, everything shakes, and chairs and cups slide from one end of the house to the other. Fuss free re-arrangement of the scenery takes us outside, on to the roof-top and even into a railway tunnel. Tongue-in-cheek car models dart about to depict the robbery.
Every character is an unashamed stereotype calling for subtly unsubtle but well observed acting. Happily the entire cast delivers; they’re straight out of a comic strip. Michele Dotrice plays the dotty and dumpy Mrs Wilberforce as strident as she’s doddery; Paul Bown, tall and lanky, with a long scarf, is properly crazed and manic as Professor Marcus; and Clive Mantle is super as seedy transvestite Major Courtney.
As comedy this is difficult to classify. Given the body count, it’s decidedly black, but, largely because of Mrs Wilberforce, it contains a highly moral and cautionary component. And there are elements of farce. One of the best gags, with a revolving blackboard continually turning over and smacking Robinson on the nose, is actually a childish but funny nod to slapstick. It’s also a thriller of course.
There’s a problem in the second half. Once the heist has misfired the play seems to run out of steam a little and lose pace and direction. It does pick up before the end though.
Overall The Ladykillers is a treat.
Constable Macdonald: Marcus Taylor.
Mrs Louisa Wilberforce: Michele Dotrice.
Professor Marcus: Paul Bown.
Major Courtney: Clive Mantle.
Harry Robinson: William Troughton.
One-Round: Chris McCalphy.
Louis Harvey: Shaun Williamson.
Mrs Jane Tromleyton: Beverley Walding.
Director: Sean Foley.
Set and Costume Designer: Michael Taylor.
Lighting Designer: James Farncombe.
Composers and Sound Designers: Ben and Max Ringham.
Special Effects Designer: Scott Penrose.