Review Round-Up: Are new Ladykillers on the money?
The revival of Graham Linehan's WhatsOnStage award-winning comedy The Ladykillers opened at the Vaudeville Theatre this week (9 July 2013). Starring Ralf Little, Simon Day and John Gordon Sinclair, it runs until 25 October 2013
…the real star of the show is unchanged - Michael Taylor's mesmerising box-of-tricks set… Though there are a few killer lines (pardon the pun), most of the laughs stem not from the rather tepid script but from the physical comedy choreographed by director Sean Foley… The new cast are a generally accomplished gang… Chris McCalphy is a particular joy as the hulking, slack-jawed One-Round… Simon Day raises effortless laughs through a range of increasingly haughty exclamations, while Ralf Little again proves his accomplishment on stage as pill-popping, quiff-haired Harry. And holding them all together is John Gordon Sinclair… All told The Ladykillers is a perfectly enjoyable way to wile away a summer's evening, though it struggles to match the accomplishment and charm of its source.
…If this new ensemble cast, which includes Simon "Fast Show" Day and Ralf Little, can't quite rival the panache of Peter Capaldi and chums from last time round, they certainly have verve enough to keep us entertained for a couple of hours… This house is a gloriously crazed concoction of teetering levels, angles and zigzag staircases; it's little wonder that the action in Sean Foley's amiable production almost never strays from within the confines of its elegantly subsiding walls… Sinclair does a sturdy job of providing the pivot around which the action spins… The dynamics of the ensemble around him are laboured at times; Little in particular could usefully tone down the ticks and twitches of his wide-boy pill-popper. After a tentative start Thorne settles comfortably into the physically demanding role of the indomitable old dear…
…while the script is still funny, this revival has a faintly slapdash air…The best bits of the show remain intact… The show also offers a profusion of verbal gags… But the real star of the evening is Michael Taylor's set, which turns the King's Cross house where the action is set into a piece of lopsided Victoriana with tables and chairs doing their own minuet every time a train passes. The new cast is something of a mixed bag. John Gordon Sinclair brings his own brand of sardonic irony… Chris McCalphy is very good… and Con O'Neill exudes a natty nastiness as a knife-wielding thug. It's all perfectly amiable, but the production needs more spit and polish if it is to recapture its original zest.
…the one loss in Sean Foley's hugely enjoyable stage production… is that it never quite matches the creepiness of the original. I would venture to suggest, however, that it is even funnier than the movie… the new script by the great TV sitcom writer Graham Linehan adds a host of new jokes, while Sean Foley's production is blessed with a string of inventive sight gags and physical theatre tricks… The new cast is terrific… Angela Thorne brings a delightful mixture of sweetness and iron resolve to Mrs Wilberforce and among the criminal gang there are cracking comic performances… It's a hugely entertaining show that looks set to become a big West End hit all over again.
…A second view of the show also emphasises the comic indestructibility of the material for it has to be admitted that the replacement cast do not, by and large, have the lunatic flair of their predecessors; yet, even so, the evening is a highly enjoyable way of spending two-and-a-quarter hours. John Gordon Sinclair brings an attractively sarcastic Scots quizzicality to the role of the criminal mastermind… Ralf Little overdoes the twitches and tics… But Chris McCalphy is endearingly funny as the big thick oaf nicknamed "One Round"… and Simon Day brings a whiff of melancholy to the transvestite yearnings of his hilarious bogus Major. Michael Taylor's lopsided folly of a set, which goes into dotty knick-knack rattling spasm at the judder of every passing train, once again gives the star performance.
…That original London cast has moved on, and on the far side of a long national tour the show is back, re-cast with John Gordon Sinclair as the ringleader, Angela Thorne doddering refinedly as the lady, and another splendid entourage of flawed gangsters… The sheer theatrical craftsmanship and gusto delight; there is warm nostalgia in the ploddingly kindly policeman and the way the gang marvels over a £200,000 haul (these days people get that just by becoming unnecessary as BBC managers). The West End summer needs a happy, daft family show with decent seat prices starting at twenty quid: Welcome home, Ladykillers!