Adapted By Graham Lineham
6 - 11 July, 2015
Mrs Wilberforce is convinced that Constable McDonald is wrong
Harry arrives to join the band
Oh the music is just wonderful, you all play so well
What are you all doing in the cupboard ?
The band performs ? or not
This is the classic black comedy; a sweet little old lady, alone in her house, is pitted against a gang of criminal misfits who will stop at nothing. Posing as amateur musicians, Professor Marcus and his gang rent rooms in the lopsided house of sweet but strict Mrs Wilberforce. The villains plot to involve her, unwittingly, in Marcus’ brilliantly conceived heist job. The police are left stumped but Mrs Wilberforce becomes wise to their ruse and Marcus concludes that there is only one way to keep the old lady quiet. With only her parrot, General Gordon, to help her, Mrs Wilberforce is alone with five desperate men. But who will be forced to face the music?
The Ladykillers is one of the immortal series of comedies produced by the Ealing Studios from 1947 to 1957 whose names alone evoke an era. Hue and Cry, Whisky Galore, Passport to Pimlico, The Titfield Thunderbolt… Alec Guinness's long association with Ealing began with Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) a dark comedy in which he played eight different members of the aristocratic D'Ascoyne family murdered by Dennis Price so as to inherit the family Dukedom. Guinness subsequently appeared as a mild-mannered bank clerk turned bullion robber in The Lavender Hill Mob and as The Man in the White Suit.
The Ladykillers (1955) is regarded as the ultimate Ealing comedy. A gang of criminals rent a room from the elderly Mrs Wilberforce on the pretence that they are a string quintet looking for practice space, while planning to use her house to stage a robbery at nearby King's Cross railway station. The film combined familiar Ealing themes: a rundown part of London, complex criminal plots, whimsical humour, a touch of the macabre, and, of course, Alec Guinness. William Rose, the screen writer, claimed to have dreamt the entire film and merely had to remember the details when he awoke.
In 2011 Graham Linehan (writer of the Father Ted TV series) adapted The Ladykillers, following the growing trend in recent years for films refashioned for the stage. The play opened at the Liverpool Playhouse before transferring to the West End where it was a huge hit. The stage version sticks closely to the film and a feature of the West End production was the highly complex set based on revolves. Without a revolve on the Bingley stage we have invoked some ingenuity in putting on stage Mrs Wilberforce's ramshackle house. The rehearsals have reminded us what a great comedy the original film was, and I'm sure you will find the same.