The Ladykillers- Theatre review
On the 25th of September, drama students went to see The Ladykillers, written by Graham Lineman, at the Vaudeville theatre in the West End.
The show is based on the well-known and much-loved 1955 film of the same title – one of the famous Ealing Comedies. The title is ambiguous, but it actually refers to a group of criminals led by the brilliant Professor Marcus, played by John Gordon Sinclair. Marcus has a plan to rob a train at Kings Cross station and decides to take up residence in a nearby house while he rehearses his team and hones his plans. The house belongs to a loveable senior citizen, a widow, called Mrs Wilberforce who lives alone apart from her deformed parrot. As cover for their criminal activities, the gang pretend to be musicians who wish to use Mrs Wilberforce's spare room to rehearse their musical pieces. After many hilarious events, every member of the gang’s life tragically ends and the stolen money ends up in the possession of Mrs Wilberforce.
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The cast includes John Gordon Sinclair who has the task of dealing with the sweetly innocent Mrs Wilberforce (Angela Thorne) and managing his untraditional band of thieves. Simon Day is the Major who likes nothing better than slipping into women's dresses; Ralf Little is the pill-popping spiv, Harry who has to endure a running gag with a blackboard; Chris McCalphy is the ‘cellist’ and ex-boxer known affectionately as 'one-round'; and Con O'Neill is the bad-tempered Louis who has more than a little trouble with idioms. The roll is completed with a gaggle of Mrs Wilberforce's female friends – some of whom seem suspiciously like men in drag!
The style of the play is Naturalistic. Naturalism refers to theatre that tries to create a perfect illusion of reality by use of a range of dramatic and theatrical strategies. It is an association in European drama and theatre that developed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The genre of the play is Black Comedy, since it deals with the issue of death is a comedic way.
It is clearly set in the 1950s because of the style of clothing, particularly from Mrs Wilberforce and the furnishings of her house. The Major is also said to be ‘a war hero’ and therefore it can’t have been too far after WWII, in the 1930s.
The higgledy-piggledy house interior, created by set designer Michael Taylor, is fantastic and a priceless addition to the play. It is complete with a revolve, one side showing the interior of Mrs Wilberforce’s house- the kitchen, dining area and the bedroom rented out to Professor Marcus- and the other side showing the exterior of the house, where the scene depicting the robbery also takes place.
My two favourite characters in the play had to be Louis and Harry. Louis was ‘the temperamental one’, a bit of a psychopath, but a hilarious character nonetheless. He was shown pacing back and forth a lot, his mouth was often pursed or set in a thin line, and his Romanian accent sounded harsh. When put together, Con O’Neill does a wonderful job of communicating the role. The light-fingered Harry was a stereotypical spiv, a petty criminal dealing in the black market. His cockney accent and constant jumpy behaviour made him the one the audience looked to for comedy. My favourite moment of his had to be the ongoing gag with his cleaning obsession after taking one of his many pills. There are many priceless moments though, for example, a sublime moment when the gang, who are posing as a string quintet, are all discovered squeezed like sardines in a tiny under-stairs cupboard. They also find themselves forced to play for Mrs Wilberforce and her friends, passing the resulting cacophony off as avant-garde music. “Being fooled by art is one of the primary pleasures afforded to the middle classes,” asserts the gang leader Professor Marcus.
In conclusion, the production was a successful one due to the remarkable acting of every character, the small ticks that told them apart from each other, the voices and accents of each actor, as well as the impeccable set.