TWO star performers are brought together for Wick Theatre Company’s sell-out performances of Ealing comedy The Ladykillers.
Judith Berrill and H Reeves are well matched, with both displaying an incredible level of detail in their performances at The Barn Theatre, Southwick, this week.
Others in the cast give it their all, too, and Richard Ratcliffe deserves a mention for his clever set design.
The story revolves around a gang of robbers led by Professor Marcus. Posing as amateur musicians, they take over a rented room in the lopsided house of sweet Mrs Wilberforce, then plot to involve her in their brilliantly-conceived heist.
The set requires a dining room, bedroom, rooftop scene and steam railway. A lot to ask but Wick has it all. The floor level featureds the main room with access to the kitchen and a ‘magical’ cupboard. Up on the stage is the bedroom, where the picture wobbles and lampshade shakes every time a train goes past. At one point, there is even steam coming through the window!
But the really clever bit is the translucent wall that becomes apparent only when two of the criminals try to make their escape over the rooftop. Very effective!
Both H and Judith are highly-experienced and have long-running associations with The Barn Theatre. It is good to see such stalwarts working together and H’s facial expressions are, of course, legendary.
Right from the start, Judith uses every part of her body to portray the part of kindly old landlady.
The opening scene with Julian Batstone as Constable McDonald really sets the tone for the performance and has us laughing heartily from the get-go.
Then H, following in the footsteps of Sir Alec Guinness, joins them and the laughter continues right until the end. He certainly has his work cut out for him, having to constantly trail around a very long scarf and always have it in just the right place at the right time.
It was good to see David Peaty back on stage with the Wick. He quietly puts in a really funny performance as Major Claude Courney, again using every expression to full effect.
The rest of the gang makes a good group, with Mark Best as Cockney spiv Harry, John Garland as oafish former boxer One-Round and Dan Dryer as Romanian hit man Louis. All are excellent in their roles, complementing each other well.
It is nice to see some of the ladies of the company having fun in the ‘concert’ scene, where the Professor tries to convince them of his musical genius. Wardrobe team Maggi Pierce and Cherry Fraser, prop girls Anita Shipton and Annabelle Heath, and publicity expert Rosemary Bouchy titter their way through the end of Act One and into the start of Act Two.
One of the downsides of the play is the large number of scene changes, without and actual scene changes. There is the need to move the characters around and take the time forward, so there are quite a few times where the lights need to drop or something has to happen to fill the gap. That lopsided lampshade certainly comes in handy a few times!
There are so many brilliant moments that added up to make the whole a perfect night of good old-fashioned comedy.
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