22nd Sept 2015
The Royalty has started the season with a cracking comedy – The Ladykillers – adapted by Graham Linehan from the classic Ealing film of the same name.
In the opening scene Mrs Wilberforce (Lorna Breeze) is seen reporting the suspicious behaviour of the newsagent, who she feels has asked unnecessarily probing questions about the whereabouts of her house. She is quite sure this is linked to some letters she wrote to the Times at the beginning of the war...She is calmed by the Constable McDonald (Mik Richardson)who points out that he was more likely asking because she had placed an ad in his window for a room to rent. Thus the audience is set up to know that Mrs Wilberforce is patriotic, honest, suspicious, and a little bit dotty...
Enter Professor Marcus who has responded to the ad and finds the room to be a perfect location to plan a heist and stage the getaway. Mrs Wilberforce is a sweet old lady who would pose no threat to his plan. Or would she? Posing as a string quartet and their conductor, the gang arrive with their instruments to “practice” in the upstairs room. They are a strange mix of eccentrics: well spoken, educated Professor Marcus played brilliantly by Michael Luke, is the brains behind the plan. His gang comprises the most unmilitary Claude (Major Courtney) played with more camp than Butlins by Damien Wood, One Round (Mr Lawson) a punch-drunk ex-boxer and the muscles of the outfit, played with stereotypical precision by David Armstrong; Harry, (Mr Robinson) good-looking, charming, plagued by nerves, popping a pill for every situation, played with convincing OCD by Lee Stewart. And finally Louis, (Mr Harvey) the killer from Eastern Europe, his cool exterior hiding the trauma of childhood abuse and a resulting terror of old women - James Errington balances the dual personality of this character with aplomb - cool and dispassionate one minute, and roused to passion, whether anger or fear, the next.
As the play progresses the gang discover that Mrs Wilberforce is a force to be reckoned with, appearing regularly with offers of tea and an inclination to chat she disrupts their plan at every turn. Is she just a lonely old woman seeking company, or is she suspicious of the activities of this strange band of so-called musicians? She draws out the good and the bad in each of them.
A mixture of farce, slapstick and black humour, The Ladykillers is a very English comedy. The characters are eccentric as only the English can be, and the team at the Royalty under Andrew Barella's direction have put together a good production - the comic timing and the interaction between the characters is almost faultless. If there is a downside to the production, it would be the set which is a little bit wobbly, and I admit to be a bit concerned that it may not last the week. However, the scene changes all work well despite the wobbles, and the technical team more than make up for it with a robust lighting and sound set.
Well worth seeing, ignore the shortcomings of the set and lose yourself in the great performance of a very English comedy. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, which promises to be interesting and entertaining.
The Ladykillers plays until 26th. Tickets are only £8 available online or on the door.