The Ladykillers
Graham Linehan
25 - 27 Jun 2014
Kevin and Sandra Stone

The Lady Killers is another triumph for the Jubilee Players.

The stage adaptation of the 1955 Ealing Studios film of the same name was played to a full theatre on June 26.

The basic story is simple.  A little old lady advertises a room to let in her house in King's Cross London very close to a railway line but the new tenant is not what he seems.

He presents himself as a respectable professor of music but is in fact a rogue, the leader of a gang of robbers.  The stage was set to represent Mrs Wilberforce's front parlour where most of the action takes place.  It also becomes the rented room where all the planning of the robbery was hatched.

Gay Lloyd who played Mrs Wilberforce, was a very convincing old lady, appearing to be absent-minded and innocent.  She was completely taken in by Professor Marcus, brilliantly played by Neil Phillips, who carried the audience along on a roller coaster of events.

The other robbers - Major Courtney played by Graham Brackenbury, Harry Robinson played by Ray Tempesta, One Round Lawson played by Steve Renwill and Louis Harvey, played by Paul Skippings, had a great comedy rapport which flew around the stage when they were together.

A touch of sympathy for Mrs Wilberforce was provided by the police constable, beautifully played by Niel Sumser-Lupson.

As we have come to expect from the Jubilee Players, the scenery was second to none and very atmospheric.  The special effects, especially the sound of a train rushing by, was realistic and the end scene in which Professor Marcus is hit by an oncoming train mad imaginative use of sound and lights.

Well done Jubilee players - a talented group of actors giving great performances.  We eagerly await their next production.

Wroxham and Coltishall Magazine
Grahams friend

The Ladykillers really is a very silly play. Based on the 1955 Ealing Studios film, it does make one wonder how post-war audiences could be so easily amused that it almost immediately attained the status of a ‘comedy classic’. The plot is absurd, the characters are crudely stereotyped, the dramatic tension is non-existent, while its sketch-like structure suggests that it could have been written by reasonably intelligent sixth formers releasing their energies after completing their ‘A’ levels. It should be an undignified flop.

And yet it works. Quite why the sight of five criminals masquerading as musicians using the naivety of a ‘sweet old lady’ to help them to conduct a robbery is funny is difficult to analyse, but it works. The scheming ‘Professor’, the threatening ‘German’, the doltish ‘One Round’, the confused ‘Major’ and the spivvish ‘flash Harry’ Robinson are cartoonish in their speech, manner and bearing but, seemingly against the odds, they are funny. Even the manner of their deaths is funny. The ‘sweet old lady’ complements their comedy criminality with unsuspecting innocence, responding – once their secret is unmasked – in a way that would do credit to an elderly primary school teacher reprimanding her errant pupils.

Perhaps the 1950s were a more innocent decade, when the local bobby – played thoughtfully by Neil Sumser-Lupson - did still display extraordinary patience with old ladies concerned to fulfil their civic duties. The piece certainly does have a light period charm - into which the Suez crisis was only permitted to briefly intrude – but three full audiences appreciated the high quality performances as much as they relished the nostalgia.

There are few plays, other than those with a military theme, that provide as many opportunities for male actors to display their talents and, in this production, the five dysfunctional ‘criminals’ enjoyed their roles to the full. Neil Phillips (Professor Marcus), Graham Brakenbury (Major Courtney), Ray Tempesta (Harry Robinson), Steve Penwill (One Round) and Paul Skippings (Louis Harvey) exploited the comic potential of their characters, milking the script in a suitably exaggerated manner. Without exception, they timed the delivery of their lines confidently and their obvious pleasure was shared by the audience. Gay Lloyd provided an effective contrast in playing the role of the apparently hapless – although ultimately successful – Mrs ‘Lopsided’ Wilberforce.

The quality of the production was enhanced by Ros Chamberlin’s sharp direction, who had constructed a set that maximised the effective use of a small stage. It was no surprise that all three performances played to full houses. There is a very good reason that the Jubilee players have a loyal following; they can always be relied upon to provide a terrific evening’s entertainment!