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The Ladykillers, Vaudeville Theatre

Adapted by Graham Lineham
Directed by Sean Foley

Pros: The main cast are skilled in delivering slapstick comedy and have excellent comic timing. The set is also very impressive and innovative.

Cons: Some people may be put off by the silly humour, which is reminiscent of The Pink Panther and Gambit.

Our Verdict: Slightly chaotic but overall an enjoyable performance with some laugh out loud moments.

Courtesy of Vaudeville Theatre

Following a successful run at the Liverpool Playhouse in 2011 and subsequent National Tour in 2012, The Ladykillers, directed by Sean Foley, is back for its second West End run, this time at the Vaudeville Theatre. The new ensemble cast contains some well-known British comics including Simon Day and Ralph Little, and this in itself is a draw for many theatre-goers.

The play takes us inside the home of elderly Mrs Wilberforce (Angela Thorne) who has decided to open up her home to a new lodger, Professor Marcus (played by John Gordon Sinclair). He announces himself to be a member of a string quartet and requests that when he and his fellow musicians are practicing, they be left alone. In fact Marcus and his friends are not classical musicians but thieves who are planning a heist with the aim of stealing thousands of pounds from a security van. His partners in crime are made up of Harry Robinson (Ralph Little), Louis (Con O’Neill), Major Courtney (Simon Day) and One-Round (Chris McCalphy).

With the doddering Mrs Wilberforce constantly interrupting their meetings with trays of tea, the gang are constantly exasperated until they realise they can use her in the plan but asking her to pick up the money, concealed in a trunk, from King’s Cross station to her home, saving them the trouble. When it is revealed that the five men are the robbers, Mrs Wilberforce’s ‘old dear’ mask slips and she becomes determined not to allow them to leave until they do the right thing and turn in the money, much to the gang’s dismay.

Angela Thorne is excellent in her role as the delightful and kind-hearted Mrs Wilberforce, who we are able to watch pottering around the house making cups of tea while the crooks formulate their plan in her spare bedroom. Simon Day’s portrayal of a cross-dressing conman commands the laughter from the audience, particularly when he is caught by his cohort holding Mrs Wilberforce’s dress against him and mimicking a feminine voice. John Gordon Sinclair is also well cast in his role as the ringleader of the miscreants, struggling to remain calm while his plan falls apart. I did find Con O’Neill’s portrayal of Louis to be quite difficult to accept at times, but overall the cast have excellent timing and deliver some great slapstick comedy.

However, it really was the set that stole the show, particularly Mrs Wilberforce’s lopsided home. The complicated design with its tilted staircases, odd angles and tipped levels emphasised Michael Taylor’s ingenious creativity. Taylor’s ability is also prevalent in the way that the heist is portrayed on stage using toy cars scaling the front walls of Mrs Wilberforce’s house. Scott Penrose’s special effects are also worthy of a mention as they add to the atmosphere and slickness of the whole production.

Overall, Graham Lineham’s adaptation of The Ladykillers is an enjoyable take on the 1955 Ealing comedy. It is a slightly chaotic but overall enjoyable performance with some laugh out loud moments. It is certainly worth making the trip to the Vaudeville theatre to catch this production for its second west end run.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below! 

The Ladykillers runs at the Vaudeville Theatre until 26th October 2013. 
Box Office: +44 (0) 844 482 9675 or book online at http://www.showsinlondon.co.uk/show/the-ladykillers

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