Review: The Ladykillers @ New Theatre
Ealing Comedy is a stable of British cinema. Between the years 1947 and 1957 they had audiences in stitches with films such as The Lavender Hill Mob, Whiskey Galore! and of course The Ladykillers. But does the transfer onto the stage work here? Yes. Yes it does.
It's a perfectly silly story in which Mrs Wilberforce (Michele Dotrice) tends to her new lodger Professor Marcus (Paul Brown). He and his posse, under the pretence of being practicing musicians, plan a robbery of decent proportions. What they didn't expect was Mrs Wilberforce to unknowingly intervene in their plans and then to find out. But do the men live up to their namesake?
It is old fashioned. But the play is given new life with a fantastic set, witty actors and perhaps the best music written for a play I've ever heard. The whole set was at a very severe angle, as if the old lady's house was to topple over at any given moment. Every time a train went past we saw the set shake and tremble, like in Mary Poppins when the Captain fires his canon. Even model cars are used in a scene change, going all over the front of the house.
The seamless flow of making the items move was impressive and a trick near the end with a knife in a hat had me in disbelief. The painting that would deliberately slant after each amendment. The chalkboard used for a lot of slapstick. The banisters that broke towards the end. The list goes on.
The humour was very much in the lying. I'm sure musicians find them funny, trying to bluff through classical music. When they do have to perform at a tea party, the Professor says it's a new composition they shall perform and will be very modern to the ears. The ladies present still find the experience wonderful and leave in a much more positive mood than most people would have done at that time. New music back then was met with horror, as it is now of sorts.
The things the gang would think up when they needed a quick lie were hilarious. We find it amusing because when we have to lie on the spot, we respond with the most stupid of ideas. A blind, insane mother who washes her face repeatedly or falling against a dress whilst singing, when you were clearly trying it against your body are just some of the pitifully hilarious excuses here. You'd think Ronnie Biggs would have learnt from watching a film like this...
It's a devilishly good night at the theatre. If you're a fan of the film, don't assume it's better than the stage production. Some films fall flat on their faces. This didn't and made a great night of comedy, which had the audience in laughing fits.
You may have to kill to get a ticket...