The stage adaption of the 1955 classic film ‘The Ladykillers’ hits the stage this week in Wolverhampton. Adapted by Graham Linehan (better known for writing the hit sitcoms Father Ted and IT Crowd), this hilarious and at times farcical production is played out on a stunning set designed by Michael Taylor which at times steals the show with its skewed interior (from subsidence caused by bomb damage), its reactions to the trains passing by, and by being the backdrop to a heist.
Having never seen either the original or the more recent remake of the film, I was worried that the play may be packed of references that I may not get, but this was not the case. For a first time lady killer the plot was easy to follow and I felt as though I was on a level playing field with those around me who were familiar with the film. This was due to the fantastic performances by the cast, led by Michele Dotrice as Mrs Wilberforce whose innocence and naivety adds to the deviance of the criminal master plot led by Professor Marcus (Paul Brown). Him and his criminal fraternity, all unashamedly stereotypes, plot and take part in a heist all from the home of Mrs Wilberforce. Clive Mantle plays the nervous and sometimes cross dresser Major Courtney; William Troughton the pill popping Harry Robinson in a role which requires a lot of being attacked by a rotating blackboard; Chris McCalphy plays the loveable giant One-Round; with Cliff Parisi rounding it off playing the Romanian gangster Louis Harvey.
As is usually the case in such situations, things don’t quite go to plan and once Mrs Wiblerforce discovers what has been going on in her upstairs room the play takes a deliciously dark turn with the bunch of crooks departing one by one in spectacular fashion. The set once again plays a great part in making these departures more memorable. Although the first half is paced perfectly and so is most of the second half, but when it isn’t it does drag slightly. But this is easily forgiven thanks to some riotous visual treats – such as the meeting in the cupboard.
The Ladykillers is a hilarious evening out. Great performances from all the cast – including the slightly suspicious looking ladies, a tantalising set all with a great script and direction that will keep both the new lady killers and the old professional lady killers happy.
The Ladykillers plays at the Wolverhampton Grand through Saturday Febraury 2.
- Jonathan Wright