I was so looking forward to seeing The Ladykillers, mostly because I’ve been hooked on watching Peter Capaldi ever since my first viewing of The Thick Of It. However, I hate to admit that I was slightly disappointed. Not with his performance as Professor Marcus, for he “nails” playing comically sinister, but with various timing issues – it wasn’t “tight” and cues weren’t crisply picked up. It’s true that it was only a second night preview but, bearing in mind the cast have been playing it in Liverpool, it could have been much sharper
I’m sure it was just an “off” night as it promised so much. The set, comprising a gradually subsiding “lopsided” house in Kings Cross, built over the entrance to a railway tunnel and designed by Michael Taylor, is wonderful (must have cost a small fortune) and the comic touch of using toy cars is very ingenious. There was a slight amateurish moment, when Professor Marcus could be spotted in the wings, climbing down the set, having supposedly fallen out of the window, but I mustn’t dwell on the negatives, as I really did enjoy the evening.
Marcia Warren as Mrs. Wilberforce, the unsuspecting octogenarian widow who rents out a room to the five oddball criminal types intent on planning a bank robbery, is a tour de force. The criminals posing as classical musicians are well characterised, especially James Fleet, as Major Courtney and Stephen Wight as Harry Robinson. I was a little disappointed with Ben Miller as Louis Harvey, although he did improve as the play got more into its stride. The scene where they perform a concert for a bunch of elderly ladies, who are expecting much more than they are given, is hilarious, as is the running joke of Harry Robinson continually being banged on the head. And the first time a train rumbled past, shaking everything on stage and rendering the conversation between Mrs. Wilberforce and Professor Marcus inaudible, was hilarious. Full marks to the Sound Designers, Ben & Max Ringham and Special Effects Designer Scott Penrose.
The whole piece managed to convey the fifties very well and stayed true to the original movie, thanks to the writer Graham Linehan. I so hope they manage to iron out the little niggles because it has the potential of being very funny indeed.