Review: The Ladykillers

By John Nathan, December 15, 2011

Gielgud Theatre, London W1

If it is comfort fare you are after in these recession-hit times, Ealing comedy is the apple crumble of showbiz.

This reworking of the classic 1956 caper miscasts Peter Capaldi as criminal mastermind Professor Marcus, leader of a gang planning a robbery.

Not that Capaldi does a bad job as the reptilian Prof who slinks around landlady Mrs Wilberforce (an outstanding Marcia Warren) like a snake on the make. But there is not much charm to the cad, at least not as much charm as in Alec Guinness's demonic film version.

Still, Sean Foley's production makes for a clever transition from screen to stage. The robbery is wittily depicted with toy cars that crawl over designer Michael Taylor's inventive set. And Mrs Wilberforce's King Cross house, where the gang plan the heist while pretending to be a rehearsing string quintet, rattles like maracas every time the train to Newcastle steams by.

Yet the evening evokes more nostalgia than laughter. And sometimes Graham Linehan, who adapted it for stage, annoyingly opts for the last resort of comedy writing -- stupid dialogue for stupid characters to chivvy along the plot.

Nonetheless, the show is a worthy plan B if you can't get tickets for One Man, Two Guvnors.

Tel: 020 7492 1548

Last updated: 11:32am, December 15 2011