One of Britain's best loved pictures, The Ladykillers has made the move from screen to stage and the blackly comic West End show is now touring the country. This comedy classic was up for five Olivier awards and is currently nominated for Best New Comedy and Best Set at the 2013 WhatsOnStage Awards.
Will Troughton and Michele Dotrice
With all these credentials behind it and Graham Linehan (Father Ted/The IT Crowd) at the helm, expectations are high but are completely met. The front cloth rises on the most spectacular set. Michael Taylor has created an entire lopsided house with every detail imaginable. Inside we find Mrs Wilberforce (Michele Dotrice) who with an empty room to spare acquires a lodger, Professor Marcus (Paul Brown) who soon invites his friends to stay. Unbeknownst to the unsuspecting old lady, Professor Marcus and his friends (who she believes are a string quartet) are in fact a criminal gang using the room to plot a heist at Kings Cross station.
Chris McCalphy and Shaun Williamson (Previous Cast)
The gang rehearse their plan in Mrs Wilberforce's home but the heist itself is played out humorously and very cleverly by remote control cars and trains that zoom across the stage and vertically up the front cloth.
Joining Paul Brown's Professor Marcus in the farcical gang are Clive Mantle (The Vicar of Dibley) as Major Courtney, Chris McCalphy as One-Round, William Troughton as Harry Robinson and Cliff Parisi (Eastenders/Call The Midwife) joins the cast for 2013, taking over from Shaun Williamson as Louis Harvey.
Each member of the gang bring a different element of hilarity and ridiculousness. Most notably William Troughton's constant slapstick habit of being hit by the spinning chalkboard. Chris McCalphy's One-Round is most loveable, child-like and clueless as he makes obviousness of the robbery on multiple occasions. Clive Mantle provides pure entertainment in revealing a surprising twist to his character. Cliff Parisi makes an excellent Romanian thug whilst Paul Brown expertly captures the insanity of crazed maniac Marcus. Marcus Taylor completes the principal cast as Constable MacDonald and as a scene-steeling old lady with an ear-trumpet!
The show does however belong to Mrs Wilberforce. Michele Dotrice is such an endearing actress and all eyes are on her as she dodders around her home, banging on the pipes to make the tap produce water and holding conversations with her parrot General Gordon.
We caught up with Michele backstage in Malvern where the show played it's final venue of 2012. You can read my interview with her here. And watch our video interview with her below.
As Michele mentions in the video, the coup de théâtre of The Ladykillers involves Mrs Wilberforce's friends coming round for tea and an impromptu concert from the criminal gang of masquerading musicians. Four local ladies from each town along the tour are put through an audition process to win the chance of starring alongside Michele. You can read about Wolverhampton's audition day on the theatre's blog here.
With William Troughton and Michele Dotrice
I find myself all too often saying "this show you HAVE to see" but the Midlands really is enjoying the best that theatre has to offer right now - The Ladykillers is no exception, a true comic masterpiece. The Wolverhampton Grand Theatre is taken over by little old tea drinkers until Saturday 2nd February and you can book tickets online here or by calling the box office on 01902 42 92 12.