25/07/2015 - 28/08/2015
TWISTED COMEDY KICKS OFF COURT THEATRE’S MERIDIAN ENERGY 2015/16 SEASON
The Ladykillers, an irresistibly twisted black comedy in which a gang of criminal misfits pose as an amateur chamber orchestra, opens The Court Theatre’s Meridian Energy 2015/16 season on 25 July.
The story is about an elderly lady living in a tumbled down house in King’s Cross, London, who needs a lodger. When the charming Professor Marcus turns up on Mrs Wilberforce’s doorstep, she couldn’t be happier. It’s even better when his friends arrive to rehearse for their amateur string quintet.
Of course, they are not what they seem. The quintet is in fact a band of crooks who plant themselves in the old lady’s upstairs room to plan a bank heist.
Mrs Wilberforce soon wises up to their ruse and the fraudulent quintet decide to dispatch her before she talks. With only her mangy parrot, General Gordon, to help her, Mrs Wilberforce is alone with five desperate men. But who will be forced to face the music?
Nominated for five Olivier Awards including Best Play, Graham Linehan’s razor-sharp adaptation of the classic 1955 Ealing Studios film (which starred Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness) wowed audiences and won rave reviews when it premièred on the West End in 2011.
But this stage show is far from a knock-off of the enduringly popular British film. Whilst Linehan (The IT Crowd, Father Ted and Black Books) has honoured the ingenious premise of the film, he has created an exuberantly inventive stage comedy packed with laughs, dark humour and verbal brilliance that exists in its own right alongside the original.
The Court Theatre’s production brings together a group of New Zealand theatre heavyweights under the direction of Ross Gumbley. The cast includes Rima Te Wiata in the role of Mrs Wilberforce; Philip Aldridge as Professor Marcus; Geoffrey Heath as the Major, a confidence-lacking con man; John Bach as big and dumb One Round, an ex-pugilist who finds a passion for the cello; Dan Bain as Louis, the word-mangling Romanian hit man; Andrew Ford as Harry, a cockney spiv with an eye for the ladies, and Tim Bartlett as Constable MacDonald.
“What excites me with this cast is that we have these incredibly experienced comedy actors married up with two of our best youngest comedians in Dan Bain and Andrew Ford,” says Gumbley. “I can’t wait to see the audience’s reaction to the alchemy they produce.”
The Ladykillers season runs on the Tonkin and Taylor main stage at The Court Theatre, 25 July – 28 August 2015
Opening Night: 7:30pm Saturday July 25
Forum Night with Cast & Crew: 6:30pm Monday July 27
Matinée: 2pm Saturday August 15
6.30pm Monday & Thursday
7.30pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday
To Book phone 03 963 0870 or
Show Sponsor: PWC
Philip Aldridge: Marcus
Geoffrey Heath: Major
Rima Te Wiata: Mrs Wilberforce
John Bach: One Round
Dan Bain: Louis
Andrew Ford: Harry
Tim Bartlett: Constable MacDonald
Ross Gumbley: Director
Harold Moot: Set Design
Stephen Robertson: Costume Design
Giles Tanner: Lighting Design
Sean Hawkins: Sound Design
Danielle Ferreira Beckner: Properties
Jo Bunce: Stage Manager
A rich, deluxe assortment of characters
Review by Lindsay Clark 26th Jul 2015
Zestful farce is never out of date and although the story first wowed cinema goers of the 1950s, this fresh version of the classic Ealing Studios’ original has plenty to offer. Applying what he calls ‘the dynamite principle’ (first, blow the whole thing up), the playwright has restructured the story of a heist gone hilariously wrong into a couple of hours of frenetic stage work, retaining the brilliantly mismatched quintet of robbers and their unwitting nemesis in the person of their little old landlady.
Lacking the fluidity of film, the play relies on vivid characters and farcical scenes played with high gusto – territory where director Ross Gumbley has set his mark of authority so often. He could not have hoped for a more engagingly disparate band of baddies. All of them are posing as musicians needing a rehearsal space where they will not be interrupted as they go about their real business to finalise The Plan and make their getaway with a trunk full of cash.
Nominally in control, is a smooth talking Professor Marcus, ‘self-professed criminal mastermind’. He is played with inventive élan by Philip Aldridge, desperately keeping disaster at bay, beguiling the landlady and finding ever more outrageous solutions to the complications she innocently presents.
The lady character comes in the form of Mrs Wilberforce, played by the splendid Rima Te Wiata as a model of genteel propriety and mistress of an alarming macaw, always kept under cover, but decidedly audible. Tim Bartlett is the quintessential genial copper, Constable Macdonald, fetched in yet again to deal with her fanciful concerns. He is there with his trusty notebook, pencil duly licked, as the play opens and his daft reassurances wind it up.
The gang that assembles to ‘rehearse’ with the Professor is made up of four colourful crims. Con man Major Courtney, neatly delivered by Geoffrey Heath, is all politesse, while Louis Harvey, from Dan Bain, provides a saturnine and broodily exotic Romanian contrast.
The heavy of the would-be team is John Bach’s stolid One-Round, ex-boxer, gravel voiced and not given to quick thinking. On the other hand, chirpy cockney Harry Robinson from Andrew Ford is riddled with pills and nerves, as well as given to obsessive polishing of the furniture. All in all we are handed a rich, deluxe assortment.
Mrs Wilberforce’s room to let has been chosen because it overlooks the busy railway line from London to Newcastle. Harold Moot’s set evokes the grimy brick exterior and determinedly prim interior where it all takes place. Lighting design from Giles Tanner and sound design from Sean Hawkins are an active support, especially as the train rumbles through. Completing the design team, costume from Stephen Robertson underscores each character and role very effectively.
For all the impact of the actors and production team, the first half – where the robbery is planned, goes right and then wrong – feels laboured until the last scene before the interval. At that point, an urgently improvised concert for Mrs Wilberforce’s wonderfully dotty friends (not named in the programme, but very entertaining) reboots the play.
The second half, which deals more directly with the problem of the landlady herself, generates more tension and momentum, so that escalating farce and the delightful irony of who gets to keep the booty can really flourish.
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