WHEN Father Ted writer Graham Linehan turned his attention to the 1955 Ealing classic comedy film The Ladykillers, he had to defend his actions against the purists.
But, as anyone who has seen his stage version knows, it was a triumphant project, and the results can be seen at Salisbury’s Studio Theatre in Ashley Road until 22nd October.
Colin Hayman’s production, on an inventive set designed by Alistair Faulkner, has all the buttons and bells needed to bring this hilarious tale of a bungled crime to vivid life. Mrs Wilberforce lives reduced circumstances in a crumbling house next to the railway at Kings Cross.
She spots Russian spies and aliens on her daily round to the grocers and the newsagents, reporting her sightings to the local police, who are frequent visitors for outlandish accounts as well as tea and biscuits.
In answer to her offer of a room to let, an eccentric professor arrives on the doorstep. He needs solitude, and also a space for his string quartet to rehearse in peace, he says. The quirks of the house – loud shaking from the passing trains and electrical peculiarities – only add character, he says.
The most worrying aspect is General Gordon, sitting in the corner of Mrs Wilberforce’s sitting room under an ornate chenille cover.
Well the charismatic professor is in fact a criminal mastermind, and his quartet is his gang. Their plot to rob a mail van is at the centre of this delightful period piece, perfectly observed in time by the Studio Theatre company.
The performances really could not be bettered. Theo Ross is the bustling Mrs W, with the sonorous Alistair Faulkner as Prof Marcus, Keith Edmund as the Major, towards whose twitchy frame women’s clothes seem irresistibly drawn, Stew Taylor as the hot-wired Harry, David Taylor as the wonderfully loveable punchy One-Round and Paul Chalmers as the mercurial Romanian killer.
This is classic British comedy perfectly performed, and it’s no surprise that the production is one of Studio Theatre’s ten-night runs. A few tickets are still available.