REVIEW: A delightfully comic criminal conspiracy

Ditchling Players perform The Ladykillers. Picture by Joe Mott
Ditchling Players perform The Ladykillers. Picture by Joe Mott

The Ladykillers, Ditchling Players

Ditchling Players put on Graham Linehan’s adaption of the classic 1955 Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers, ably directed by Alan Carter.

In this production a criminal gang, who pose as a string quintet, are planning a heist in the Kings Cross home of an endearing widow called Mrs Wilberforce. This sweet unsuspecting lady lives alone (with her parrot General Gordon). However, the criminal conspiracy does not go according to plan.

The set, designed by Tim Bishop and assisted by Ian Clayton, captured Mrs. Wilberforce’s abode in its state of genteel decay. The faded elegance of the house was dressed by Liz Gee and Elaine Bolton and enhanced by Neil Iosson’s lighting with the sound by Colin Brown, which was evocative of a railway line.

The innocent Mrs Wilberforce was played with delicious comic restraint by Sandra Haynes who captured a sweet old lady unwittingly becoming an accomplice to their crime.

A crime masterminded by Professor Marcus, who was brilliantly portrayed by Douglas Wragg as a dangerously mad genius, but with a not wholly dislikable charm. His theatrically overlong scarf provided a running gag, as well as a useful murder weapon.

The gang of criminals, gathered by Professor Marcus, consisted of the bogus Major Courtney, played superbly with perfect comic timing by Rick Farmer who suggested that this moustached conman had a penchant for a pretty dress. David Tettersell played the light fingered and pill-popping Harry Robinson with aplomb and was particularly amusing especially when he became overly house proud and couldn’t be restrained from polishing everything in sight. One-Round was played by John Bunn, an ex-boxer who was endearingly funny, particularly when he believed he really could play the cello. Bad tempered Louis Harvey, played by Alex Orchin, convinced the audience that he had more than a little trouble with English idioms. John Merrett played the tolerant Constable Macdonald, the local bobby, to great effect accepting not only Mrs Wilberforce’s concerns of a criminal nature but of her parrot voiced squawkingly by Jill Hewer.

One of the highlights included the fraudulent quintet performing for Mrs Wilberforce and her female friends. The gaggle of elderly ladies played by Penelope Bennett, Nan Crofton, Alan Carter, Maggie McNally and Lindsay Cross, were entranced by the racket believing it to be an avant-garde musical composition.

The costumes helped to effectively depict the range of different characters. Stage manager Sue Hanna, assisted by Judy Walker, ensured the whole performance ran smoothly.

Alan Carter directed a production that was an engaging and entertaining show, leaving audience members with a smile on their faces.

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