It’s November 1956 and Mrs Wilberforce, a sweet little old lady, alone in her house, is pitted against a gang of criminal misfits who will stop at nothing.
Posing as amateur musicians, Professor Marcus and his gang rent rooms in the lopsided house of sweet but strict Mrs Wilberforce. The villains plot to involve her, unwittingly, in Marcus’ brilliantly conceived heist job. The police are left stumped but Mrs Wilberforce becomes wise to their ruse and Marcus concludes that there is only one way to keep the old lady quiet.
With only her parrot, General Gordon, to help her, Mrs Wilberforce is alone with five desperate men. But who will be forced to face the music?
Based on the Ealing Studios film of the same name,The Ladykillers is a classic black comedy re-written for the stage in 2011 by Graham Linehan, creator of Father Ted, The IT Crowd and Black Books.
Performed at The Priory Centre St Neots on 3rd, 4th and 5th September 2015 and directed by Simon Ockenden.
‘One Round’ Lawson
Little Old Ladies
Beware of trains…and sweet old ladies
St Neots Players make a killing with adaptation of hit film
‘The Ladykillers’ is a much loved classic of British cinema and Graham Linehan of ‘Father Ted’ fame was a brave man to take it on, but he has succeeded in adapting it for stage in an innovative way whilst retaining its charm and humour.
The actors of the St Neots Players have also taken on some iconic roles played by the best of the best in their time including Sir Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers and made them their own against the backdrop of an ingenious multi-tier set.
Mrs Wilberforce, an old lady who lives with her parrot, General Gordon, who looks like a ‘diseased washing up glove’ conveniently close to King’s Cross and tends towards alerting the police to the possibility that her newsagent might be a Nazi in hiding, takes in a mysterious lodger. Soon his string playing friends start to call. All is not as it seems and Mrs. W is in mortal danger before General Gordon can say ‘Please stay for tea.’ A torrent of funny lines, high farce and strong characters were tackled in convivial style by a consistently solid company of actors smoothly directed by Simon Ockenden. I loved the police and old ladies, one of them at least very strange indeed, mingling with the audience pre-production and the effects managed by a talented team led by Don McKay were inspired and brilliantly atmospheric.
Although the set was incredibly clever and detailed, I didn’t feel that the upstairs section had sufficient space for the physicality and farce required of this piece. I also felt that the costumes needed more of a 1956 styling particularly for Mrs. W, a lady who grew up in Victorian times, and the other old ladies and to make the gang members rather more distinctive and individual.
That being said, we were treated to some excellent performances especially from George Kelly as a lugubriously laconic Professor Marcus, Richard Fitt as a cross dressing Major with immaculate comic timing and Ian Worsfold as a deadly, dastardly Louis Harvey. Other enjoyable portrayals came from Sean Webb as the OCD spiv Harry, Ian Francis as the punch drunk One-Round, Christine Suggars as the twittery landlady and Paul Riddy as the ever patient policeman. Kim Ulmer, Peta Riley, Paul Riddy, Linda Riddy, Keith Jenkinson, Kym Land and Karen Rawlins created a frightening troop of old ladies.
On the night I attended, the audience were slower to react and slower to laugh than the play deserved. Always hard to judge cause and effect, but this may have been partly due to insufficient pace particularly in Act 1. All in all, this was a fine attempt at a technically complex piece with the attempted murders and death on the tracks scenes played to perfection and the stringed instruments played excruciatingly to destruction.
‘The Ladykillers’ will become a staple of amateur theatre in years to come and St Neots Players have reason to be proud of this early version of a modern classic.
Many thanks as always to the warm and welcoming approach of the front of house team. I love my visits to the Priory as a result!