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The Ladykillers classic British comedy at its best

The Ladykillers classic British comedy at its best

We love the Autumn season at the New Wolsey as it always offers something for everyone and this year is no exception. The opening production this year is the Ealing comedy classic The Ladykillers and it is always interesting to see how effectively a film classic can be transferred to the stage.

The Ladykillers is a black comedy set near Kings Cross in London during the 1950's where five very different oddball characters are brought together by the manipulative and calculating Professor Marcus (Steven Elliott) in an effort to pull off the perfect bank robbery. They choose the home of the eccentric octogenarian Mrs Wilberforce as the base for their meetings and decide to rent a room under the pretext that they are classical musicians. The entry of each character into the home of Mrs Wilberforce (Ann Penfold) is highly comical and with the interjection of General Gordon (The Parrot) it makes for some classic humour. Of particular note is the arrival of Mr Lawson/One-round (Damian Williams) who delivered many riotous comedy moments throughout the play.

Once Mrs Wilberforce discovers the truth about the robbery and the crime they have committed, the oddball criminals wind up killing each other as they deliberate over who and how they will snuff-out the old lady (endearingly played by Ann Penfold). The subsequent murder attempts and chaos provides for lots of slapstick comical humour with a hint of the dark and sinister.

Who understands the mind of a desperate criminal? and how does an old lady with traditional Victorian values manage to survive against all the odds? In a subtle twist we are left feeling a sense of redemption as Mrs Wilberforce explains everything to the police…she declares, “It’s fantastical, but true” Five criminals have been dispatched and there is a cello case full of money in the cupboard, who could disagree with the old lady, fantastical indeed Mrs Wilberforce.

Although 95% of the play takes place inside the house of Mrs Wilberforce, if you are familiar with the film the challenge for the stage will be how well you can recreate a Victorian house that is set over a railway tunnel, a number of roof top scenes and the point at which the robbery takes place.

The solution to this challenge is the use of a revolving stage that shifts seamless between scenes and with great effect. The audience were clearly amused by the manner in which the robbery and subsequent movement of the cash took place, with the use of a low tech and highly effective mechanical representation. The twisted interior set design was the creation of Richard Foxton and was in every detail true to the original 1950s setting for the film. And during the more sinister moments in the play the set helped to create a creepy and haunting atmosphere. All too often the creative team are the hidden talent behind the scenes and do not get the full acknowledgement that they deserve and therefore, well done Richard Foxton (Foxton).

So for the set design alone you are in for a treat.

This Ladykillers helps us to appreciate and enjoy classic British comedy, if you do not have any plans for the next few weeks be sure to put a date in the diary.  

The Ladykillers is showing at The New Wolsey Theatre until Saturday 30th September to book your ticket click here.

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