Little Theatre Company
Live theatre in the heart of Burton upon Trent
by Graham Linehan
Performed: March 2015
Review by Ross Lowe - Down Stage Centre
Like a starving baby in a sock. Like a diseased washing up glove.
This, we are informed, is what dear old Mrs Wilberforce's tatty old parrot 'General Gordon' looks like, although the audience never gets to see him. Probably just as well, given the reactions of those that do.
What the audience at Burton-upon-Trent's Brewhouse Arts Centre does get to see this week however, Matt Bancroft is brilliant as the moustachioed buffoon Major Courtney is possibly the most complete and impressive piece of local theatre that I've witnessed in a very long time. The Little Theatre Company - celebrating their 30th anniversary this year - have given their faithful a brilliant piece of entertainment as a birthday present in the shape of Graham Linehan's The Ladykillers, an affectionate and smartly-written re-working of the Ealing silver-screen classic made famous by Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers.
From the skewed and flickering lampshades, the teapots and flowered wallpaper of the excellent and thoughtfully inventive set (full marks for the cupboard, by the way) through to the casting, pace and performances: this production comes up trumps.
Old Mrs Wilberforce (Bethan Waite), a short woman prone to tall tales, is everyone's favourite grandma. Very innocent, very sweet and, as it turns out, far too accommodating. From the moment that the menacing silhouette of Professor Marcus (a gleefully sinister turn by Phil Robinson) appears at her front door, her doily-filled world can never be the same again.
One by one, we're introduced to apparent conductor Marcus's orchestra. The Ladykillers - and Linehan's witty script in particular - lives or dies with these guys. Thankfully, every one of them more than steps up to the challenge. Matt Bancroft is brilliant as the moustachioed buffoon Major Courtney, Daniel Tunks is fantastic as twitchy young spiv Harry Robinson, Peter Banton's One Round is every inch the towering yet lovable lump he's meant to be and Louis Harvey, the Romanian gangster who lives in fear of old women (and subsequently almost has a heart-attack when a lilac swarm of old dears descends upon him at the end of Act 1) delivers his heavily accented lines wonderfully. This crafty ensemble keep the show moving with their sharp timing and delivery and director John Bowness deserves huge credit for ensuring that not one line is wasted, nor is any part overplayed.
As the action unfolds there are slickly choreographed slapstick-sequences aplenty and characters are summarily despatched in a number of inventive and suitably grisly ways to ensure the audience get their money's worth.
No matter what The Little Theatre Company have achieved in their first 30 years or what they come up with in the next 30, The Ladykillers deserves to be up there with the best of them.
Images from this show
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