After hours of traffic and floating through flood to reach the Malvern Festival Theatre we were given the warmest welcome backstage by Mrs Wilberforce herself, star of stage and screen - Michele Dotrice.
The Ladykillers play follows a similar premise to the films and premiered at the Liverpool Playhouse in 2011. The Ladykillers opened at the Gielgud Theatre, London in December 2011 before embarking on a 2012/13 UK tour which visits the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in January.
When asked about what makes the play such as success Michele Dotrice began by explaining that the story of this little old lady is one that touches the heart. "It's a beautiful classic of it's time, but manages to be current and up-to-date for modern audiences. It's a Black Comedy set in the 50's and there's a laugh every couple of seconds."
This production is pure entertainment and is packed with special effects and a magnificent set - a subsided house that's difficult for even the actors to move around - which all adds to the humour of course. "There's something funny for all ages" she added. "If it's physical comedy you like, we've got it, if it's witty banter - we've got that too. We've had very young audiences at the show as well as the elder generations, my young grandchildren loved it!"
"Mrs Wilberforce is rather a challenge to play. I've never played anyone quite like her, I have the padding, an extra droopy chest, a grey wig and make-up to make me look older (none of which I'll need towards the end of tour I'm sure!) but I'd like to think I have my own take on the character that offers a different perspective to Katie Johnson in the film. The character is beautifully written."
Michele Dotrice rose to fame 40 years ago as Frank Spencer's long suffering wife Betty in the TV series Some Mothers Do Ave Em. "I can't believe that after 40 years people still go on about it, it's still shown on TV and people still love it. Betty was a very important part of my life and working with Michael Crawford was fantastic. He's recently come back into my life, he's in New Zealand a lot, but he'll be coming to see me in The Ladykillers I hope. I loved working on television, but theatre is where you learn your craft. Particularly comedy is a very difficult form of entertainment on stage as night by night and venue by venue the audience reaction differs - and when you get it right, there's no greater buzz."
Aside from Clive Mantle baring an uncanny resemblance to John Cleese there is a definite Fawlty Towers/Monty Python feel to the play. Middle-aged men dressed as old ladies? Check!
From the writer of Father Ted and The IT Crowd, Graham Lineham, The Ladykiller's echoes the style of many popular British television series' and comes together perfectly to create such a fast-paced and tightly performed piece of theatre. The set by Michael Taylor as previously mentioned is breathtaking and the scene involving a car chase (without giving anything away) is very cleverly done and is hilariously silly.
Definitely one not to be missed The Ladykillers runs from 28th January - 2nd February 2013 at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre and tickets can be booked by calling the box office on 01902 42 92 12 or by visiting the website here: http://grandtheatre.info/WhatsOn_focus.asp?ShowId=635&sC=page2