The Ladykillers is the tale of a chaotic gang with a mastermind plan to perform a robbery at King’s Cross Station. However things soon go south when they are outsmarted by a little old lady - Mrs Wilberforce.
The story was originally created by Canadian writer William Rose when, during breakfast, as he stared incredulously at his wife, egg dripping from his fork, she relayed to him the dream he had told her the night before about an old lady who unwittingly becomes involved in an inventive heist plot when she opens her home to a ‘Professor Marcus’ and his gang of ‘musicians’.
The stage version of the 1955 hit comedy created by Graham Linehan (Father Ted, Black Books, Big Train and The It Crowd,) requires a complex and clever set – making it an excellent choice for The Lyric Theatre and producer Jimmy Fay soon got to work giving the story a brand new twist by introducing an all-female cast – the first time this has been done.
As the audience settled into their seats you could hear the faint noise of an approaching train, before the curtain went up to reveal Stuart Marshall’s superb set – a rickety Victorian house with groaning interiors and behind it, a hazardous King’s Cross railway station - immediately setting the scene of a post-war shattered England, brilliantly lit by Zia Bergin-Holly.
Sitting in the living room of the unstable Victorian house is Mrs Wilberforce (Stella McCusker) who is telling Constable MacDonald (Nuala McKeever) of her concern about the local newsagent who she believes to be a Nazi seeking revenge. As the conversation comes to an acquitted end, it soon becomes clear that the bemused policeman is a regular visitor to the home of the ‘silly old bird’ as she calls to relay her latest suspicions of the towns (mostly) innocent folk. Despite the constable’s reservations, it is Mrs Wilberforce’s prying nature that ensures nothing in this plot concerning the unhinged robbers passes by the landlady.
Jimmy Fay’s cast excelled – bringing to life the wicked hilarity that this play needs but so often lacks and leaving the audience erupting in laughter. At one point as the gang spot Mrs Wilberforce and a policeman arriving at the house, they scramble into a tiny cupboard, fearing that their masterplan has been infiltrated only to be located by a shocked and confused Mrs Wilberforce. As the door opens to reveal the many heads inside, almost giving a Medusa-like appearance, Professor Marcus easily explains their whereabouts by stating “Mrs Wilberforce we are artists” - an excuse that is lapped up without question.
The cast, nattily dressed by Erin Charteris, including; Abigail McGibbon as the unhinged mastermind professor Marcus; Julie Maxwell as Harry, a young drug addict;, Jo Donnelly as Major Courtney – who squeals with delight at the sight of Mrs Wilberforce’s empty pink dress; Cheryl Ferison as One Round - a punch-drunk ex-boxer and Maria Connelly as Louis, a cutthroat word-babbling immigrant, delivered their lines with perfect precision, leaving me along with the rest of the audience with fat tears rolling down our newly pinked cheeks.
As the story evolves and Mrs Wilberforce threatens to call the police, it becomes clear that if they gang want to successfully pull off the robbery, they must kill the old lady – however, as each try and fail to do so, Mrs Wilberforce’s words run true that even bad men have a little good in them and instead, one by one, each member of the gang end up on an unplanned train journey north.
Although done many times before Jimmy Fay gives this play a whole new lease of life and the all-female cast was an ingenious concept that worked beautifully. With its hilarious quips and startling plot, The Ladykillers has all the ingredients for an exuberantly entertaining evening.
The play continues until 8TH July 2017. To book: https://lyrictheatre.co.uk/event/the-ladykillers/
My verdict 10/10