Star rating – 10/10
As I haven’t seen the 1955 Ealing comedy version of 'The Ladykillers' with Alec Guinness, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this production, directed by Sean Foley, at the Liverpool Playhouse, currently celebrating its centenary year. To be honest I went because I am a massive Peter Capaldi fan, with a slightly unhealthy crush on his Malcolm Tucker incarnation. And what I got was the most uproarious, delightful comedy that I have seen for a long time, and a set the like of which I have never seen. I simply don’t have enough superlatives to do it all justice.
If you don’t know the film, the story takes place around the Kings Cross home of a nice, but slightly eccentric old lady, Mrs Wilberforce. It begins with her being kindly ticked off by a friendly police constable after she accused the local newsagent of being a Nazi because he wanted to know her address. The fun and games really start when she wants a lodger, but ends up getting a gang of criminals who are planning a robbery, posing as a string quartet.
The aforementioned Peter Capaldi plays the leader of the gang Professor Marcus, and is gloriously funny and malevolent throughout. There are even flashes of Tucker in the way he plays the role, and at a few points even makes fun of the audience in a hilarious manner. Marcia Warren is perfect as the delightful elderly Mrs Wilberforce, who supplies endless cups of tea to the ‘musicians’, and sticks to her principles throughout the skulduggery. Ben Miller is also wonderful as the malevolent Romanian hit man Louis.
The set is an absolute wonder, and full marks must go to Michael Taylor for the most innovative way to portray the creaky old house and its surroundings in such a small space. I won’t spoil it with too many details, but the robbery scene itself is an absolute delight. The special effects are marvellous and riotously funny – praise here goes to Scott Penrose for their design.
The production goes on tour after its Liverpool run – I am sure tickets will sell out fast so you would be advised to book now if you want to catch this perfect gem of a slapstick crime/comedy caper. You will be amazed, delighted and thoroughly entertained.