The Ladykillers

Nov 8 2012 | By More


King’s Theatre
Tue 6 – Sat 10 November 2012

Deliciously entertaining, this touring adaptation of the 1955 film plays with the stereotypes and conventions of both the comedy and the heist movies of the time.

Strike up the band – Mrs Wilberforce with her house guests

Strike up the band – Mrs Wilberforce with her house guests

Graham Linehan’s script delivers a thoroughly entertaining evening out – on a set which is so artfully squint that anyone standing upright appears to be in danger of falling over.

Michael Taylor’s scenery is not the only thing with deceptive looks in this comedy caper about a heist gone right.

It sets a gang of desperate robbers against the little old lady whose Kings Cross home they take over for their HQ. Posing as an amateur string quartet, they take over a room to plan their latest job – while she runs up and down stairs making tea for them.

Michele Dotrice – Betty from Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em – is a real treat as dotty old Mrs Wilberforce. She’s a regular visitee on the local constable’s beat – thanks to her considerable flights of imagination which turn the most harmless of overheard gossip into an alien invasion, or worse.

After all, the corner shopkeeper talks funny and Mrs W wrote some pretty scathing letters to the Times about Hitler. So he must be a high-ranking Nazi officer come to take his revenge – not a lad down from Bolton who just wants her address to add to her card in his window offering rooms to rent.

Paul Bown, as “Professor” Marcus, leads the baddies. Smoothly supercilious, he soon has Mrs Wilberforce eating from the palm of his hand. She’s charmed by his manners but even more made up by the thought of having a real-live string quartet practising under her roof.

On the fiddle

His quartet of dubious artiste’s are certainly all on the fiddle. Major Courtney, a nervous wreck of a con-man with a penchant for feminine attire, is wonderfully observed. Clive Mantle has just the right air of dowdy, failed public-school alcoholic to him as he creates this terminally sad case.

Model of Michael Taylor's design for The Ladykillers

Model of Michael Taylor’s design for The Ladykillers

Twitching in with a bottle of mother’s little helpers and another of reds in his pocket, and a whole sideboard full of filched silver stashed under his coat, Harry Robinson is the baby of the gang. William Troughton gives this hard-nosed spiv a curling sneer – but give him enough pills and he’ll clean the whole house.

Chris McCalphy has a more straightforward role to fill in as the barn-sized One-Round. A man who is as deficient in the brain department as he is proficient in the brawn- he has a surprisingly delicate timbre on the Cello.

If One-Round is the pussycat of the gang, Shaun Williamson – Barry Evans in Eastenders – creates its snarling wildcat. As Louis Harvey, a Romanian with a flick-knife never far from his fingers, he has a violent streak only tempered by a fear of little old ladies – learned on his grandmother’s knee.

Under Sean Folley’s clear direction, and played out across the set which allows you to see all parts of the the house at once, this is soon winding up the comedy.

That you can see the plot coming a mile off – or know if from the original movie – matters not a jot. Lineham plays easily with 1950s social convention and brings in little illusions and lines which are absolutely fitting, but which have extra resonances for a modern audience.

It doesn’t always work quite as it might. The cast could raise the comedy an extra notch with a slightly more mannered approach. And though the set design is a work of genius, when it goes wrong (as it did on opening night) it just gets in the way of the story.

That said, the whole production is a real treat. Particularly once the ruse becomes compromised and Mrs Wilberforce begins to take on a completely different role in proceedings.

Who needs either the police or a garotte to clean up, when you have a little old lady in a lavender dress in the house!

Run ends Saturday 10 November 2012
King’s Theatre website:


On Tour

12 – 17 Nov 2012 Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122 Book online
19 – 24 Nov 2012 Glasgow
Theatre Royal
08448 717647 Book online
26 Nov – 1 Dec 2012 Malvern
Festival Theatre
01684 892277 Book online
23 – 26 Jan 2013 Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes Theatre
08448 717652 Book online
28 Jan – 2 Feb 2013 Wolverhampton
Grand Theatre
01902 429212 Book online
4 – 9 Feb 2013 Leicester
Curve Theatre
1162423595 Book online
11 – 16 Feb 2013 Hull
New Theatre
01482 300300 Book online
18 – 23 Feb 2013 Belfast
Grand Opera House
02890 241919 Book online
25 Feb – 2 Mar 2013 Dublin
Bord Gais Energy Theatre
0818 719 377 Book online
4 – 9 Mar 2013 Norwich
Theatre Royal
01603 630000 Book online
11 – 16 Mar 2013 Woking
New Victoria Theatre
08448 717645 Book online
18 – 23 Mar 2013 Newcastle
Theatre Royal
08448 112121 Book online
25 – 30 Mar 2013 Salford
Lowry Theatre
08432 086000 Book online
1 – 6 Apr 2013 Leeds
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700 Book online
9 – 13 Apr 2013 Cardiff
New Theatre
029 2087 8889 Book online


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