The Ladykillers may be a well-known story, having been made into a number of films, but now it comes to the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich as a play, and from start to finish, it is a pleasure to watch.
Graham Linehan, known for The IT Crowd and Father Ted, brings slapstick comedy and British humour to this adaption of William Rose’s much-loved screenplay, by special arrangement with Studiocanal and Fiery Angel Ltd, London.
Some might consider the stage at the New Wolsey Theatre to be smaller than others, but pleasingly this never seems to hinder the production of their plays, nor the main performances.
The mise en scène of The Ladykillers is incredibly realistic, with a living room, and bedroom above it, forming the main set, and the railway tracks behind the elderly lady’s house being a secondary, but no less important, location.
But rather than leave the rooms as empty shells, it seems no expense was spared in making the set look and feel homely. From the wonky tap that needs a bang of the water pipes to work, and the retro ‘wireless’ (radio) on the kitchen counter, to the armchair, display cabinet with real ornaments and paintings on the wall in the living room; and the bed, armchair and back window in the bedroom – the window through which the characters try to escape with the money onto the railway tracks behind the house.
All in all, the set design mixes well with the period-correct costuming to ensure the play is as accurate as possible, with the rooftop chimney pots puffing stage smoke, and ornate light fittings adorning the interior walls and ceilings.
For The Ladykillers, the set sits on a revolving turntable, enabling a seamless transition between the two locations as one location swivels into view as the other swivels out of view.
Although the bank robbery is central to the plot, the crime itself only makes up one scene, and as this means a separate location would be wasted, the production team have devised a clever and very funny way of showing the robbery in progress, and this becomes one of the funniest stand-out scenes from the whole of the play.
While many will recall Tom Hanks as Professor Marcus in the 2004 film alongside J. K. Simmons as Garth Pancake, some may remember the original 1955 movie which starred, among others, Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Cecil Parker and Frankie Howard.
This play reinforces the idea that British is best, and stars Ann Penfold as Mrs Wilberforce, Steven Elliot as Professor Marcus, Graham Seed as Major Courtney, Damian Williams as One-Round, Anthony Dunn as Louis Harvey, Sam Lupton as Harry Robinson, and Marcus Houden as Constable Macdonald.
Everything from the excellent acting, the incredible set design, the slapstick comedy and funny script combine to make a truly remarkable and unforgettable performance of The Ladykillers – a play that is truly unmissable.
The Ladykillers runs at the New Wolsey Theatre until 30 September, and tickets can be bought from the box office or via the New Wolsey Theatre website: https://www.wolseytheatre.co.uk/shows/the-ladykillers.