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The Ladykillers (Liverpool)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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With this new version of The Ladykillers, adapted from the much-loved Ealing comedy, Graham Linehan proves himself a writer at the top of his game; and what a top class cast director Sean Foley has assembled.

The action takes place in the almost Escheresque house where a dear little old lady dwells, and five conmen masquerade as a bunch of musicians. Peter Capaldi plays the flamboyant evil genius Professor Marcus (the role immortalised on screen by Alec Guinness); as constantly and hilariously frustrated as a certain Mr Tucker.

An almost unrecognizable Ben Miller plays gloomy, sinister Louis Harvey, whilst Stephen Wight as Harry Robinson who cannot keep his hands to himself is a comic force to watch. Clive Rowe may be the stooge, One-Round (two short planks) but proves a solid laughing stock, as does the fidgety Major Courtney, yet another stalwart in James Fleet. All nicely rounded off with a comic cameo and the precision of a Swiss watch from Harry Peacock as Constable Macdonald, plus a splendid Marcia Warren, all lavender and lace and sternly upright as Mrs Wilberforce.

Running jokes, sight gags and very special effects abound: plenty of flashes of inspiration were greeted with applause on opening night. And some of the punchlines were swallowed up although often because of roars of laughter from the audience. The Crazy House set itself is one of the best created at a theatre known for the quality of its staging.

Another dazzling hit for the Playhouse: farcical and fantastic - a show to die for.

- Carole Baldock


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