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The Ladykillers

Mrs Louis Wilberforce is a little old lady who lives alone with her raucous parrot and active imagination. With nothing much to occupy her she is always reporting unrealistic suspicions to the police and sending them on wild goose chases. But one day an archly sinister character, ‘Professor’ Marcus turns up at her door asking to rent a room, what Wilberforce doesn’t know is that he is the head of a hardened gang of criminals currently attempting a van robbery.

‘The Ladykillers’ is a play based on the 1955 movie written by William Rose and adapted for the stage by Graham Linehan, who famously directed ‘The IT Crowd’ and ‘Father Ted’.

Professor Marcus was famously played by Tom Hanks in the 2004 film remake and by Peter Capaldi  in the original stage production. But Steven Elliot did a fantastic job of living up to this, his body language and tone was spot on for orchestrator of the whole caper.

Amongst the The Professor’s accomplices is slow-witted and punch drunk ex-boxer ‘One-Round’ Lawson (played by Damian Williams), drug addicted Harry Robinson (played by Sam Lupton), Coward Major Courteny (Played by Graham Seed), the murderous, cruel and vicious continental gangster Louis Harvey (played by Anthony Dunn) and of course ignorant widow Louis Wilberforce (played by Ann Penfold). There was a lot of talent on stage and they showed everyone that they would do anything for a laugh, whether it’s playing their instruments badly or hiding in a cupboard.

Marcus Houden does a great job of playing the doubtful Constable McDonald and he also plays a hilarious cameo later in the show, where he heads a swarm of old ladies. This was one of the many moments that I found myself crying with laughter throughout the show.

The set designer had the difficult job of squeezing a movie that takes place in multiple scenes onto a single stage and Richard Foxton has done a great job. Most of the scenes take place in the house, which has two stories but the house also rotates to allow scenes on the roof and at one point giving us a glimpse into the robbery itself with a model of the van robbery.

The whole night was very funny and it had me chuckling through most of the night and when I wasn’t giggling I was trying to hold back the tears of laughter.

I would highly recommend going to see the show, it really is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen at The Queen’s Theatre.

Hornchurch Life

The Ladykillers

Before the lights were dimmed and the revolving house which would become our sole focus for the next couple of hours was revealed, I didn’t have a clue what to expect.

Apart from the play being based on an old black and white movie with the plot centred on a string quartet and an old woman, I knew pretty much next to nothing about what The Ladykillers was about. 
Yet when the curtains were drawn at Queen’s Theatre, the community venue that sits in the very heart of Hornchurch, I couldn’t have been more surprised in the best possible way.
 I found myself embarrassingly snorting with laughter as the ‘talented’ group who knew nothing about music, performed to a swarm of pensioners believing the arrangement was a modern-day masterpiece. 
Every enthusiastically played wrong note had the audience around me in hysterics. 


The Ladykillers, adapted by Graham Linehan, takes place in Mrs Wilberforce’s home in 1950s King’s Cross. 
The innocent old woman advertises to rent out her spare room and Professor Marcus, played by Steven Elliot, turns up at her door asking if he can become her new house mate. 
Delighted at the news, Mrs Wilberforce welcomes him with open arms. 
He informs the sweet old lady - who adores her ugly macaw General Gordon that scares the bejeebers out of everyone else - that he is a composer and his string quartet would need the upmost privacy to practice in the spare room.
 Little does she know, the professor and his quartet, made up of Harry Robinson, Major Courtney, Louis Harvey and One-Round, are actually criminals planning to rob the bank nearby. 
With a combination of Professor Marcus’ intelligence, Harry’s loveable cockney attitude, Major Courtney’s passion for women’s clothing, Louis’ hatred for old ladies and One-Round’s stupidity, there is something that will make everyone laugh out loud. 


The impressive staging, excellent timing and dark plot twist, are all reasons why you should not miss out on the chance to see this adaptation of a classic movie.


The Ladykillers is being performed at Queen’s Theatre from October 3-21. 
For more details visit queens-theatre.co.uk.

Romford Recorder

The Ladykillers

★★★★

Forget Alec Guinness. Forget Tom Hanks. This is an ingenious stage version of William Rose's classic Ealing comedy, penned by Graham (Father Ted) Linehan and first seen in 2011.

Despite its cinematic origins, it is at heart a good old-fashioned farce, lacking only the manic inevitability of the best of that inter-war genre.

Five career criminals take a room in a house near to King's Cross station – very handy for the “stick-up job” they're planning.

Their landlady – serial complainant and waster of police time – is fooled by their unusual “front”, a classical string quartet, but sees through their disguise when the cello case disgorges its cargo of crisp white fivers.

Peter Rowe, artistic director at the New Wolsey, Ipswich, where this revival originated, has produced a slick, well-paced show, greatly assisted by Foxton's impressive set. The house opens like a book to reveal a richly detailed interior, and the whole thing revolves – powered by stage-hands in time-honoured fashion - so that we can see the roof-tops, and the quaint animated board depicting the heist itself. The scene changes are covered by gothic organ music and the play of steam and signals to evoke the railway beyond. Composer and Sound Designer Rebecca Applin provides some very authentic-sounding incidental music, setting the mood and the period to perfection in the wordless prologue.

Rowe's cast is a little uneven. As the widowed Mrs Wilberforce, Ann Penfold gives a lovely little old lady, primly comic. Masterminding his quartet of criminals, and conducting their avant-garde performance, is Steven Elliot's plummy Professor Marcus, his trailing college scarf an amusing running gag; Graham Seed makes the most of con-man Major Courtney, battle-fatigued war hero and closet cross-dresser. Anthony Dunn never really gets the measure of violent Romanian Louis, neither the accent nor the character, but there are very satisfying turns from Sam Lupton – reminiscent of a young David Jason – as the pill-popping, nervy spiv “call me 'Arry” Robinson, and from Damian Williams, excellent as the slow-witted, ham-fisted “Mr Lawson”, looking a little like Oliver Hardy in his ill-fitting jacket.

The cast is completed by Marcus Houden as the long-suffering Constable MacDonald; he also contributes a hilarious cameo as Mrs Jane Tromleyton, figurehead of the “swarm” of elderly ladies who come to hear the performance by the bogus Boccherini lovers, mercifully curtailed by the interval. They are played by a community chorus, locally sourced for each venue.
The rickety old house, with its dodgy plumbing and faulty lights, not to mention permanent resident General Gordon, the raucous Macaw, will take to the road again at the end of the month, to be shoe-horned onto the stage of the Salisbury Playhouse, where it completes its tour.

Runs until 21 October 2017, then at Salisbury Playhouse from 31 October to 18 November 2017

Reviews Hub

The Ladykillers

I recently attended the press night of The Ladykillers at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. We were told we would be serenaded by a string quartet (which would be come obvious why, later in the show), while we took afternoon tea and cake in the bar. Dressing in 50s glam optional but encouraged! An incredibly special and atmosphere educing pre-show environment that was to perfectly prelude the feast to come!

First things first the staging. Queens Theatre is a remarkable place. Not a particularly large stage, and I would assume they operate on a fairly tight budget. No matter what I see there, the stage set is always very very good. But for The Ladykillers, it really is something special. There is a huge house in front of, which turns round and opens out to give a view of the settings inside. In a small space we are front garden, side street, rooftop, railway yard, hallway, living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. The level of detail has been painstakingly worked on and everything run very very smoothly in the transformations. I really can’t applaud this aspect of the show enough.

For the play itself, when Mrs. Wilberforce puts a sign in her newsagent’s window advertising ‘A Room to Let’, she’s delighted when the mysterious Professor Marcus proclaims it perfect for rehearsing his unorthodox string quintet. She soon discovers that she is not making tea for a motley band of musicians, but harbouring a hardened gang of criminals and conmen planning the great Kings Cross Train Robbery!

There are some real laugh out loud moments in this production, and while for me, Professor Marcus (played by Steven Elliot), steals the show, the entire cast was fantastic, each bringing something very different, to each of their respective very different characters – be it the dress wearing Major Courtney to the lovable heavy One-round.

I highly recommend this production and it really rates as one of the best I have seen at the Queen’s Theatre. Catch it while you can before it finds itself on the train to Newcastle!

All images (c) Mike Kwasniak used with permission of The Queen's Theatre

Phoenix FM

A Fox on the Fairway

A wonderful new production is now showing at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch.

A Fox on the Fairway is a clever and very funny farce.  A comedy with characters you can easily connect with while laughing at the plots and gags along the way.  The show was written by American playwright Ken Ludwig, a two time winning playwright.

The play revolves around the private country club and the fairways.  Unfortunately for the club has not been lucky winning tournaments, but surely with a new player joining the club things must be on the up?  At least President, Henry Bingham, (Damien Mathew) thought so at last with his new player and new assistant this had to be his year.  But if it was that easy it wouldn’t be a farce.

A farce is not your regular comedy things have a habit of going wrong.  In the meantime little does the president know another new employee Justin is in love with his waitress Louise, adding more surprises to the story.

Richard ‘Dickie’ Bell was one of those smug guys who would stop at nothing to win the tournament, and enjoyed nothing more than rubbing the presidents nose in it.  A little wager against the game seemed like a natural thing to do until you include using your wife’s shop as part of It.  Muriel Bingham (Sarah Quist) a very strong woman.  She did an excellent job of keeping her husband on his toes.

The president has to deal with the club tournament with a heavy wager running on it, an engagement, a surprise love, and not forgetting the wife!

Natalie Peabody, reminded me of Dorien the character from birds of a feather, with her sexy characteristics and her love for men, especially the president.  She was brilliant.   She said:  “Golf and sex are the only two things you can enjoy without being good at them.”

Louise Hindbedder,  (Ottilie Macintosh) was my favorite character because she was so extreme,  a little bit crazy but innocent with it.  Justin Hicks (Romayne Andrews) was the  love of Louise’s life with a hidden talent that would soon become a requirement to keep his job.

I thoroughly enjoyed this Ace production!

Bedrock FM

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