THE LADYKILLERS

WINNER: NODA Best Regional Drama 2016

Criminal mastermind, Professor Marcus, and his gang of oddball villains posing as musicians, meet their match when they take up residence in the top floor room of Mrs Wilberforce's dilapidated house. A convenient location to plan their heist, they figure their sweet-matured old landlady will be easily hoodwinked. But beneath her demure exterior, Mrs Wilberforce is made of sterner stuff and, with just her parrot, General Gordon, for moral support, she turns the tables on the bogus quartet. Based on the much-loved Ealing Comedy, this award-winning stage adaptation by Graham Linehan, fizzes with fun.

Gallery

Cast and Creative Team

Professor Marcus | Mik Horvath
Mrs Wilberforce | Sandy Lane
Harry Robinson | Ben Sherwin
‘One-Round’ Lawson | Phil Stanley
Major Claude Courtney | Steve Dunning
Louis Harvey | Adam Guest
Constable MacDonald | Phil Simcox
Mrs Tromleyton | Verna Bayliss
The ‘Old Ladies’ | Marie Stone, Matt Powell & Maureen Tierney

Director | Barry Taylor
Set Construction Manager | Chris Bancroft
Lighting Designer | Stephen Greatorex
Sound Design | Barry Taylor
Sound | Harry Greatorex
Production Manager | Phil Simcox
Company StageManager | Lucy Young
Wardrobe Props Manager | Marie Stone
Production Assistant Director | Verna Bayliss
Production Assistants | Matt Powell & Maureen Tierney
Production Graphics | Marie Stone
Playwright | Graham Linehan

Reviews

"...one of Derby's finest theatre companies has triumphed once more..."

“The beloved Ealing classic is brought to uproarious life in this magnificent production from Fourblokes Theatre Company.

A motley gang of criminals seek the perfect hideout to lay low as they plot to carry out a major bank heist. A room to hire at a local house seems perfect, as does their disguise as a classical quintet. The only problems are their new nosy landlady, Mrs Wilberforce, and the fact that none of the gang play any instruments. Mrs Wilberforce is known to the local police for crying wollf – if the gang are discovered, will the cops believe their hapless informant?.

Deservedly remembered as a classic comedy, The Ladykillers stars Alec Guinness as the Professor. Remade in 2004 by the Coen Brothers starring Tom Hanks in the lead, this is a story adored by many, so expectations are high. Fourblokes Theatre Company excel at challenging, harrowing drama – would they equally excel at frothy yet macabre comedy? Andnot just and comedy, but one of the most beloved comedies ever written, in its stage incarnation written by national treasure Graham Linehan or Father Ted fame?

Yes, they do, and with considerable confidence and panache.

Linehan has mentioned Reservoir Dogs as influential upon adaptation, and that is certainly obvious here. The five main characters are well observed, perfectly performed (the comic timing displayed is second to none), and each has the chance to shine – Adam Guest’s impressively menacing psychopath Louis has a fear of oldladies; Ben Sherwin’s hysterical, jittery Harry has OCD; Steve Dunning’s funny, blustery Major has hidden desires. Each of them is superb, enhancing a plot that hurtles along as if it is on rails. Phil Stanley’s lovable One-Round is a highlight, bellowing a couple of lines that blow the roof off at times, leaving your reviewer helpless and teary with laughter.

The set, too, is a riotous marvel, containing interior and exterior sets in one exceptional design. But is is the clash of wills between the gentlemanly mastermind Professor Marcus (a giddying, tireless Mik Horvath) andtheir formidable adversary Mrs Wilberforce (Sandy Lane in a wonderfylly determined performance) that lies at the heart of the show, and which resonates most strongly at its close.

That such a gentle start to a show gives way to a mesmerizing Act One close is impressive enough; that it retains and boosts such energetic fun to even greater heights in Act Two is nothing short of atonishing. Just desserts are served aplenty, and a packed house appreciated, roared and cheered through the entire production.

The perfect complement to a dark and stormy night, The Ladykillers is a light hearted comedy with a pitch-black sense of humour, a delicate dance with moments of brutal hilarity, performed with uncanny precision and professionalism.

One of Derby’s finest theatre companies has triumphed once more. Unreservedly recommended.”

Kevin Redfern | November 2016

The Ladykillers is a 2011 stage adaptation written by Graham Linehan based on the 1955 classic Ealing Comedy film starring Alec Guiness, Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom. The action is set in the home of Mrs. Wilberforce who lives in her house close by King’s Cross Railway Station. Professor Marcus wants to rent a room in her house telling her that he and some friends are amateur musicians who will be practising there but in reality are planning a heist at the Railway Station. The crooks even manage to con Mrs. Wilberforce into moving the stolen cash into her home after the robbery but things soon start to go awry for the Professor and his cronies. The set was an innovative triumph. There was a kitchen and sitting room on stage level, a set of stairs leading up to a second level, which had a bedroom and toilet, and the bedroom window took you out on to a ledge over the railway line and signals – a minor miracle on such a small stage. The detail that had gone into the decor and furnishings was of the highest standard as was the excellent lighting plot and most effective sound effects. Barry Taylor, the Director, had put together a formidable cast where each member played their respective roles effortlessly and with sheer brilliance. Mrs. Wilberforce was terrifically portrayed by Sandy Lane. She captured every mannerism of this charming, sweet, frail, doddery and somewhat dotty old lady with great insight, a truly outstanding performance. Mik Horvath was utterly captivating as the devious Professor Marcus. He endeared himself to Mrs. Wilberforce, commanded the ‘gang’ wonderfully and his quick witted retorts were sublimely delivered. A performance of the highest standard. Harry Robinson, the pill-pushing, cleaning obsessed and prone to petty theft member of the gang, was splendidly played with feverish intensity by Ben Sherwin. Steve Dunning was magnificent as Major Claude Courtney. He was totally dignified, (well mostly, just a few lapses!), debonair, and masterfully exploited every comedic moment – a joy to behold. Another great performance came from Adam Guest who was convincingly menacing as Louis Harvey, perhaps the real ‘hard man’ of the gang except for his fear of little old ladies when his antics were hilarious. His ‘East European accent’ never faltered. I absolutely loved Phil Stanley as dim-witted, but with a heart of gold, ‘One Round’ Lawson. He dominated the stage in more ways than one and his endearingly, funny misinterpretations were perfectly executed making for a priceless and powerful performance. Making his mark in the supporting role of Constable MacDonald, Phil Simcox was charm personified, coping with the far-fetched tales of Mrs. Wilberforce with affable patience. He also ‘dressed-up’ well as one of the lady friends of Mrs. Wilberforce along with the Verna Bayliss, Matt Powell, Marie Stone and Maureen Tierney. Their provocative antics were a sight to behold. I don’t think I shall ever forget the spectacle of the whole gang literally squeezing and cramming themselves into the smallest of cupboards – I never thought they would all get in, never mind get out again! I have now literally run out of praise and superlatives. This production was, without doubt, a tremendous piece of theatre from start to finish with exceptional acting from the whole cast. It was ‘a pleasure afforded to us all’ – utterly superb in every way.

Joyce Handbury