Article 19 take on The Ladykillers- a classic comedy. A professor puts together a gang of thieves, the goal being to rob a casino. They rent a room in an elderly lady’s house- posing as a string quintet, however the old lady sees through this foolery. The gang decide that she must be murdered, but this proves much more difficult than it first seemed…
James Harrington and Dominic Ryder, directors of the Article 19 production, attempt to revive this quintessentially British classic comedy, resulting in an uproarious triumph. The evening followed the criminal escapades of the pseudo- string quartet (conducted by the cunning Professor Marcus played by Bendict Churchus) exploiting the sweet and innocent nature of elderly Mrs Wilberforce, adorably portrayed by Lucy Cheetham, an unsuspecting decoy in the steadily unravelling criminal operation.
When tackling such a witty and wisecracking script such as The Ladykillers it is of paramount importance to keep the knife edge timing polished and the momentum built to a perfectly considered pace. This cast did both effortlessly, the performance captivating and animated throughout. Undertaking this hilarious slapstick farce is a feat in itself yet I do not feel unjust in suggesting that this cast almost rivalled the original cast from the Ealing Studios film in 1955. Absolutely on par with the characterisation of different idiosyncrasies and mannerisms of the motley crew; all distinguished and all to great comic effect.
Benedict Churchus, playing ring-leader Professor Marcus, fully embodied the Machiavellian and sardonic nature of the author of the heist smoothly, with quirks of being able to pass off an intolerable cacophony of unrehearsed scratches as a an avant garde musical experiment; confidently Doctor Who-esque in fashion. Major Courtney, the bumbling, distressed and extremely flustered ex-war hero with curious transvestite yearnings, was portrayed to such ridiculous and laughable extent by Euan Codrington, relentlessly sweating and stumbling in terror throughout the performance. Brad Carpenter gave a strong performance as Mr Robinson, the suave old-lady charmer from London, whose worrying pill intake and obsession with cleanliness becomes more and more desperate as events unfold.
Additionally, the temperamental and unimpressed Louis Harvey whose volatile Russian essence was aptly captured by Connor Whitmore, was a role constantly generating nervous chuckles from the audience. Prior to Whitmore in this adaptation I had never seen an actor hold such tension in their eyes; such menace. Lastly but not least in this unlikely band of brothers, the endearingly funny One-Round was played by Alex Wilcox who captured the hearts of many, channeling a Lennie-esque (as in George and Lennie) portrayal as the educationally challenged sweetheart who keeps forgetting his alias and blowing cover, announcing loudly at one point ‘Is anyone back from the robbery yet?!’. What makes this casting so flawless was the impressive dynamic interactions between the cast resulting in a seamlessly effortless atmosphere on stage permeating with dramatic presence and suspense making every delivery and retort result in laughter. Every moment of stillness poignant and every moment of chaos fully charged. Magnificent work to all those involved and a special mention to Lucy Cheetham as Mrs Wilberforce, never has an old lady been so mesmerisingly charming and gentle.