The New Wolsey Theatre, Salisbury Playhouse and Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch present “The Ladykillers’ The Classic Ealing Comedy which is currently at The New Wolsey in Ipswich before going on a regional tour.
Taking an award winning movie and putting it on the stage can be a little worrying as the audience are drawn to comparisons with the all-star cast they’ve seen in the cinema. The 1955 movie certainly had an all-star cast as well which included the likes of Alec Guinness, Frankie Howerd, Peter Sellers and Jack Warner to name just a few.
Sitting in the New Wolsey the first thing that strikes you is the amazing set, designed by Richard Foxton, while waiting for the lights to go down we see the exterior of a 1950s street. Later as the story progresses this revolves to show the equally impressive interior and continues to revolve and reveal other parts throughout the production. – truly impressive!
The story centres on an eccentric elderly widow, Mrs Wilberforce (played dottily by Ann Penfold) who lives with her parrot and her vivid imagination of Nazi invaders and suspicious characters.
Living in such a large house she advertises a ‘room-to-let’ and receives a visit from Professor Marcus (Steven Elliot), desperate to rent a room and not put off one bit by the constant disruptions from the trains thundering past the window.
Taking the room the Professor quickly receives guests and friends who he explains to Mrs Wilberforce as members of a string quintet who will be joining him to rehearse in his room. The old lady readily accepts the story, which is naturally not the truth, and happily serves tea to the musicians who are in fact a group of criminals planning a heist.
Among the criminals performance worthy of note are Graham Seed as a nervy Major, with a love of wearing dresses and Damian Williams as ‘One Round’ Damian to this reviewer was the star performer. He plays the character with a Tommy Cooper flavour, so it’s no surprise to discover he has played the part of Tommy Cooper in a play “Being Tommy Cooper’.
The first half involves the planning of the robbery which is missing one final piece and accomplice – the Professor finally recognises the missing link and Mrs Wilberforce is dragged into the plan.
Mrs Wilberforce begins to smell a rat but will she squeal or will she be tempted by the riches on offer.
This is a gentle but at sometimes dark comedy, with some rich characters. Don’t be drawn into comparisons with the original movie but just settle in for an enjoyable trip to the past.
The Ladykillers is at the New Wolsey, Ipswich until Saturday 30th September
Then pn regional tour
Box Office 01473 295900
Review Mark Keable
Photos Mike Kwasniak