The Ladykillers is yet another screen to stage transfer and the latest in an increasing line of shows to feature special effects and illusions - in fact Michael Taylor's ingenious set designs received the warmest applause. Although the body count is higher in Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Ladykillers is probably the darkest of the Ealing comedies but Sean Foley has chosen to present it as a slapstick farce. It's sometimes rather irritating and repetitive, frequently very amusing but never any more than that. The producers have assembled a cast of superb comic performers and there are especially good perfroamnces from Marcia Warren as her trademark dotty old lady and Clive Rowe as a dim-witted former boxer and the only member of the gang with a hint of a conscience. Peter Capaldi is suitably sinister as the evil Marcus despite having to cope with the all too visible effects of a shocking cold. The Ladykillers provides an amiable and enjoyable couple of hours but not the comic bliss available elsewhere in the West End at the moment. - David Baxter
02 Feb 12
A fun, enjoyable evening of theatre. The first thing to admire is the set which is simply stunning. The casting is perfect. The robbers, led by a Peter Capaldi who's clearly relishing his role are excellent. Clive Rowe, Ben Miller, James Fleet and Stephen Wight make a wonderful ensemble and the icing on the cake is the fabulous Marcia Warren who is quite wonderful as Mrs Wilberforce. The audience didn't seem to laugh quite as much as I'd have expected. I was sitting in the third row of the stalls and wondered if it was a show which is best seen close up rather than from the back of the circle? I laughed lots and left the evening very happy. - Paul Wallis
20 Jan 12
Just back from seeing this comedy and though I was never a great fan of the film, I must say that this stage production was a great night out and enjoyed totally. The set must win some awards as it is superb--so clever and moves around with such ease. The cast are TOP NOTCH for sure. The main group of bungling robbers are perfect in Peter Capaldi,James Fleet, Ben Miller, Stephen Wight and my favourite Clive Rowe--he really was funny in his role of One Round-Mr Dawson. As for the brilliant Marcia Warren, well she never fails to be brilliant. Whatever she is in on stage, I book to see it and she is always the greatest joy to watch--her timing and manner is faultless. I recommend it 100% - Joe Spiteri
04 Jan 12
For me, Graham Linehan takes a step backwards from the current IT Crowd, by creating this old-fashioned comedy. This is a lot more like the Criterion's nostalgic 39 Steps (without the fun of watching the same actors play different parts), than the Adelphi's hilarious provocative laugh-fest, One Man Two Servants. I did enjoy the star cast, all of whom are talented, but the material they were working with was average. Peter Capaldi comes off best. He is funny, channeling a power mad Dr. Strangelove via a pantomime rendition of Richard Wilson's "I can't believe it" sitcom character. And it's sitcom that's prevalent here, like an average episode of Only Fools and Horses, only with guest stars in period costume. There is no star turn to induce belly laughs, like Doon Mackichan in Jumpy, or James Corden in One Man Two Governors. The second half is funnier than the first half, because it's mildly edgy to try to kill an old lady. But all in all, this is a cozy 3 star comedy for those who feel Michael McIntyre is too cutting edge, and miss the old variety shows and the music hall. It is likely to drive young people away from the theatre, if this is their first and only sampling. The biggest laugh from the tepid audience came when Capaldi (in a rare post-modern quip) pointed out that middle class audiences love being fooled by bad art, and that seemed about right, that the audience were laughing about paying so much money to see a souped-up sitcom such as they could have seen on telly for free. Worth it if you can get a cheap seat, then. - steveatplays
29 Dec 11
Fabulous fun. Great acting and impeccable timing from all - including the set, which deserves its own star billing - JN
08 Dec 11
Whoever had the idea of asking Graham Linehan to write, and Sean Foley to direct, this new version of a classic Ealing comedy was inspired. They bring a touch of absurdity, a sprinkling of surrealism and a cartoon-like quality, add lots of physical comedy and create a homage to the film rather than a film-to-stage transfer. Think Patrick Barlow’s 39 Steps meets Improbable’s Theatre of Blood and you’re getting warm.
It’s still set in 1956 and it’s faithful to the story, but freshly written. Designer Michael Taylor’s has created an enormous higgledy-piggledy multi-level house, with a nod to Heath Robinson, which moves to provide exterior locations and itself ‘performs’, aided by terrific (and largely appropriately low-tech) special effects by Scott Penrose.
‘Professor’ Marcus has put together a team for a heist at Kings Cross and hires a room in Mrs Wilberforce’s house where, under the guise of rehearsing his string quintet, they plan their robbery. The successful (off-stage) robbery is cleverly staged, and the spoils brought to the house. Most of the play, however, revolves around their ‘getaway’.
It’s cast to perfection. Peter Capaldi is excellent as a gangling manic Professor, increasingly desperate in his attempts to keep it all together. James Fleet is perfect as a military con (gentle)man who seems a little fond of dresses. Stephen Wight is brilliant at the physical comedy required of his pill-popping cockney kleptomaniac (I just don’t understand why he isn’t covered in bruises – I winced a lot!). Clive Rowe is a wonderful big clumsy intellectually challenged bruiser with foot forever in mouth. Ben Miller is a delicious foreign Mafioso with a penchant for knives and a phobia of old ladies. Harry Peacock’s cameo as the tolerant local bobby is lovely. Then there’s Marcia Warren. What can I say? She’s so perfect as the post-war eccentric old dear who invented neighbourhood watch and quite how she keeps a straight face on stage all evening whilst all the chaos is going on is beyond me.
The original story apparently came fully formed in the dream of original screen writer William Rose and there’s a dreamlike quality to this version and this production. I found it delightfully charming; a smile never left my face and I laughed out loud often. It’s a big theatre to fill, but I do hope it finds its audience because it’s a very welcome, beautifully crafted evening. - Gareth James
01 Dec 11
All the cast were fantastic. The sight of Proffesor Marcus' dancing as the curtain raised after the interval will live with me for a long time! A production as magical as the set it was played in. Thank you for such a memorable evening! - Phil Murray
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