18 September 2013

The Ladykillers - Vaudeville Theatre, Saturday 20th July 2013


Posing as amateur musicians, Professor Marcus and his gang rent rooms in the lopsided house of sweet but eccentric Mrs Wilberforce. The villains plot to involve her unwittingly in Marcus’ brilliantly conceived heist job. The police are left stumped but Mrs Wilberforce becomes wise to their ruse and Marcus concludes that there is only one way to keep the old lady quiet. With only her parrot, General Gordon, to help her, Mrs W. is alone with five desperate men.

The criminals argue among themselves and, one by one, they start to plot against each other, each ultimately meeting their deaths at the hands of one of their former colleagues and their bodies being dumped into departing trains. Mrs. Wilberforce tries to convince the local police that she has foiled the robbery plot and tries to return the money but isn't believed, instead being told to keep the money.  She uses the money to take General Gordon on a cruise in order to seek the cure for the illness that has caused all his feathers to drop out.  

Constable MacDonald - Blair Plant
Mrs. Wilberforce - Angela Thorne
Professor Marcus - John Gordon Sinclair
Major Courtney - Simon Day
Harry Robinson - Ralf Little
One-Round - Chris McCalphy
Louis - Con O'Neill
Mrs. Tromleyton - Carole Dance

Creative Team:
Written by – Graham Lineham, based on the screenplay by William Rose
Director – Sean Foley
Set and costumes – Michael Taylor
Lighting – James Farncombe

I was looking forward to this to cheer me up.  Unfortunately the first half was completely and totally ruined by the bad behaviour and appalling manners of the middle-aged couple sitting directly behind me.   THREE times (yes, three!) I had to turn round and ask them to be quiet.  And then, in the interval, they started having  a “conversation” which was clearly directed at me so I eventually had to turn round and tell them that I thought people of their generation had better manners.  Things got rather tense so I had to move to another seat – but by this time the show was ruined for me, which was a shame because my bad experience (and subsequent bad mood) will have a knock on effect on how I review it.  I missed a lot of the dialogue in act one because of the constant stream of dialogue coming from the seats behind me.  The rest of the audience seemed to be having a good time though.

The set is marvellous – the interior of a creaky old house, rapidly being shaken to pieces by the rumble of the steam trains coming and going from King’s Cross .  Some of the scenes which take place outside the house are cleverly incorporated into the fabric of the house itself, although the heist scene, which is played out with model cars and trucks moving round on the vertical surface of the house’s exterior wall doesn’t really work terribly well.  It’s a clever idea but not done slickly enough.   There were a couple of scenes during the second act when it seemed as if something hadn’t gone according to plan – perhaps a fluffed line or a missed cue.  Particularly clunky was the scene where the two robbers attempt to throw each other off the roof.  Something got bungled somewhere and Simon Day ended up throwing himself off the roof. 

The cast do the best they can within the limited stereotypes dictated by the script.  Angela Thorne does a marvellous job of the physical aspects of being a doddery old lady (compare her walkdown and bow at the curtain when she seems positively spritely by comparison) and is genuinely touching in some of her scenes - particularly when she descends the staircase arrayed in her lovingly preserved party dress. John Gordon Sinclair manages well with the unforgiving role of Professor Marcus, haunted as he is by the ghost of Alec Guinness, but isn’t nearly “odd” enough.  But Ralf Little’s tics and twitches are overdone and get irritating very quickly.   Con O’Neill’s Louis is inaudible for most of the time because of his appalling accent. 

The script works well, sticking closely enough to that of the film to honour the source but different enough to be fresh.  Unfortunately most of the action takes place in act two so it feels uneven. There is so much going on and so many people to be bumped off that it feels over-crammed yet still rushed. 

The show deserves a better review than I’ve given it.  I was deeply, deeply pissed off with the rude people behind me and spent the second half in a black sulk at the back.  Stupid, I know, allowing other people to spoil an afternoon at the theatre – but sometimes other people can be so bloody inconsiderate.  

forced to face the music?

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