Until October 26
★★★★ (out of five)
BACK on London’s West End following its 2011 debut and a subsequent national tour, Graham Linehan’s entertaining adaptation of this great 1955 Ealing comedy comes laced with beefed-up humour that substitutes the original’s more chilling undertones for an added slice of the slapstick.
For those unaccustomed to the screen version, the plot centres around a group of eccentric criminals who pose as a string quartet and take up residence in the house of a little old lady in order to plan a heist in King’s Cross.
John Gordon Sinclair is brilliant as Professor Marcus, the quick-thinking brains of the operation and leader of the bumbling thieves.
Other members of the stereotypical character-set include Ralf Little’s wide-eyed East-End teenager Harry, Con O’Neill’s temperamental Romanian and Simon Day’s bombastic, cross-dressing army major.
Day and Sinclair lead the laughs and win over the audience with each scene they command, while Angela Thorne as landlady Mrs Wilberforce also shines throughout.
The real star, however, is Michael Taylor’s ingeniously skewed set, which is full of idiosyncrasies such as a lop-sided staircase and moving furniture.
Midway through, the way in which the stage manages to incorporate the plot’s off-site heist is also deliciously clever.
Linehan’s background in sitcoms (The IT Crowd and Father Ted) is clearly evident in his script which lacks a consistent pace. There are moments where the action seems to grind to a halt and perhaps 10 or 15 minutes might have been sliced off its two hours and twenty minutes running time.
The play’s second act in particular is slow and the play’s ending runs out-of-steam, Linehan unable to flip the switch and inject the light humour with the darker undercurrent the plot demands.
That said, however, The Ladykillers makes for a fine night of theatre with a winning mix of funny characters and some standout scenes.