Maidment Theatre, Auckland

14/02/2015 - 07/03/2015

Production Details


A raucous and wildly funny summer caper in which a gang of criminal misfits pose as an amateur chamber orchestra opens Auckland Theatre Company’s 2015 season on 12 February. 

THE LADYKILLERS, by Irish playwright Graham Linehan, is set in the lopsided house of sweet old Mrs Wilberforce from which the gang masterminds a daring bank heist. Though the police are stumped, Mrs Wilberforce wises up to their ruse and the fraudulent quintet decides 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 film (which starred Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness) wowed audiences and won rave reviews when it premiered on the West End in 2011. 

Creator of hit TV shows Father Ted and The It Crowd, Linehan honours the ingenious premise of the much-loved film’s screenplay, creating an uproarious slapstick stage farce fizzing with gags and verbal brilliance.  

Auckland Theatre Company’s production brings together a group of New Zealand theatre heavyweights. The cast includes Annie Whittle (History Boys, Go Girls, Shortland St), Paul Minifie (Anne Boleyn), Carl Bland (Midnight in Moscow, Awatea), Peter Hayden (Other Desert Cities), Andrew Grainger (Jesus Christ Superstar, Once on Chunuk Bair, Chicago), Hera Dunleavy (Other Desert Cities, Paniora!), Byron Coll (Once on Chunuk Bair, Badjelly the Witch) and Toby Leach (Shortland St, The Chathams). 

Colin McColl and Cameron Rhodes co-direct this exuberant, iconic and irresistible comedy, and representatives from the 65+ theatre company Marvellous take on the extra roles. 

The Ladykillers season runs
Dates: 12 February – 7 March
Venue: Maidment Theatre, Auckland University,
Tickets: or (09) 309 0390 

Subscriptions are now open for Auckland Theatre Company’s 2015 season. Subscribers are the first to hear about additional offerings and events throughout the year before they are publically announced. This includes The Next Stage, ATC’s programme for the development of new works, ATC’s youth show and community events.

For more information or to order a copy of the 2015 season brochure, please visit 

Mrs Wilberforce: Annie Whittle 
Constable McDonald: Paul Minifie 
Professor Marcus: Carl Bland 
Major Courtney: Peter Hayden 
Harry Robinson: Byron Coll 
One-Round: Andrew Grainger 
Mrs Jane Tromleyton: Hera Dunleavy 
Louis Harvey: Toby Leach 
Guests: Representatives from the Marvellous Theatre Group (

Co-Directors: Colin McColl and Cameron Rhodes 
Set Design: Rachael Walker 
Costume Design: Elizabeth Whiting 
Lighting Design: Phillip Dexter MSc 
Sound Design: John Gibson

Black slapstick full on gags

Review by Janet McAllister 18th Feb 2015

Oldies are the goodies and kitsch rules in skilled adaptation of vintage movie. 

Auckland Theatre Company’s season-opening comedy this year is a black slapstick that crowds in some favourite old gags – you know before they begin how they’re going to turn out, but the comfortable nostalgia adds to the live fun.

Irish playwright Graham Linehan has done a very good job of adapting the classic Ealing Studios 1955 film into a piece that inhabits the theatre properly – placing all the action in the train-rumbled house of Mrs Wilberforce (rouge-cheeked Annie Whittle). [More]


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Actus reus

Review by Matt Baker 17th Feb 2015

“To be frivolous about frivolous matters, that’s merely boring. To be frivolous about something that’s in some way deadly serious, that’s true comedy.” So said Alexander Mackendrick, who directed the 1955 film upon which Graham Linehan’s 2011 stage adaptation is based. Farce requires danger. It requires an expertly balanced combination of drama and comedy played at both extremes.

While I have no doubt that the cast and creative team behind The Ladykillers understand this, the robust logic that provided the safety net for Linehan’s adapted plot (as the playwright discusses in this Guardian article) is the same upon which directors Colin McColl and Cameron Rhodes have relied to present this production. By doing so, the play ticks along comfortably as the cast waits for the next plot point to carry them through to the next scene. It is this comfortability, this safety, and this lack of risk that sits in heavy contrast to the concept of the Auckland Theatre Company’s 2015 Reinvention season. [More]


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A smooth, perfectly timed, gag-indulgent, comic delight

Review by Dione Joseph 15th Feb 2015

Television sitcom writer Graham Linehan certainly has a flair for farce. 

His refreshing version of the classic Ealing comedy by William Rose (originally starring Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness, and later remade by the Coen brothers with Tom Hanks) might not be as disturbing as the original – but The Ladykillers is black comedy at its best. 

The story is simple. On post-war London, Mrs Louisa Wilberforce is your classic sweet little old lady who has a spare room to rent. While suspicious of all potential German affiliations (and perhaps those from Wales too) she is quick to welcome into her home Professor Marcus, a musician and purportedly “a gentleman” who seeks privacy for his eclectic string collaborators as they prepare for the performance of their lives. Of course it’s hardly a high class concert but a heist of the first order that requires their unsuspecting host to play a pivotal role in ensuring their success. But will she take the bait?

Expertly directed by Colin McColl and Cameron Rhodes, it’s a visual and verbal delight where scarves entangle, knives are flung, diseased parrots squawk out inappropriate comments, discordant harmonies are spontaneously improvised; and endless cups of tea are poured against the background of flickering lights as the train shrieks past on its way to Newcastle.

And the actors are rather brilliant too. 

Annie Whittle is the epitome of gracious hospitality, embodying Mrs Wilberforce with just the right mixture of steely reserve (her umbrella has done damage in the past) and bespectacled amiability. Unaware of the Machiavellian scheme being plotted beneath her roof, she persists in according the utmost respect to the motley bunch of supposed musos who stalk into her life.  

As the suave Professor Marcus, Carl Bland is perfectly cast and impeccable in his ability to shepherd his wayward, often sceptical and occasionally obsessively compulsive crew around the tiny house. His masterful charm flatters and coaxes his colleagues into undertaking a far more dastardly deed than they originally anticipated: the murder of an innocent little old lady. Unfortunately the quartet he attempts to orchestrate and conduct seem to have their own versions of the score …

High-strung Major Courtney (Peter Hayden) seems better suited for dressing up in ladies’ garb than doing away with the gentler sex and while the Romanian misogynist Louis Harvey (Toby Leach), a rather evil looking impersonator of hissing cats, has issues with motherly figures. The sadly slow-witted One-Round (Andrew Grainger) is affable and endearing, especially when he discovers a flame of courage and rushes to the defence of the sleeping lady. The capabilities of young spiv Harry (Byron Coll) lie more in the polishing department than in creating bloody messes.

In true Shakespearean fashion there are very few people left standing at the end of this rather inevitably macabre tale, yet the journey is one of cheery inevitability. It also carries an underlying warning: never underestimate the power of a single woman; especially one who has a parrot named General Gordon. Perhaps the weakest character of them all, General Gordon’s rattling cage and only vaguely decipherable acerbic comments getting highly exaggerated reactions from everyone yet never quite seem to merit all the focus and attention. 

While the premise of the plot is relatively straight forward (perhaps this is where Home Alone got its inspiration?), it is to the credit of the actors and creatives that when the stakes are raised so is the energy. Collectively the cast work well together, like the proverbial well-oiled machine. The Ladykillers is exactly that: a smooth, perfectly timed, gag-indulgent, comic delight that showcases some extraordinary talent.

In addition, Paul Minifie as the local bobby and Yvette Parson’s as the mature groupie Mrs Jane Tronleyton give notably strong performances while, with much glee and delight, Mrs Wilberforce’s cohort of friends (Sue East, Elizabeth Kernohan, Patricia Noonan, Christina Pusztay, Marianne Simpkins and Rosslyn Smillie) swell the cast to a collective of unwaveringly committed performers.

Rachael Walker’s set is a tribute the period, with exceptional attention to detail. Her design of the crooked room is metaphorically and literally appropriate. While northern London seems to boast a rather smog free sky, it is a good use of space punctuated with puffs of smoke.  Phillip Dexter’s lighting design is subtle and complementary in general but on opening night more than one cue seems to be a bit late – but, aside from brief glimpses of the deceased heading offstage, nothing major.

Credit must also be given to Michael Hurst’s seamless stunt choreography that ensures the quick, often brutish exchanges are lively and impactful with no trace of stylised clichés.

A fittingly appropriate production to herald the launch of ATC’s 2015 season and a promise for a variety of rich, engaging and revealing works upon New Zealand’s foremost main stage.


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