OVO’s The Ladykillers at the Malting Arts Theatre, St Albans

09:40 20 March 2014

The Ladykillers

The Ladykillers

Archant

Modern classics are generally the forte of OVO, the resident company at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans.

But turning the clock back to a play released in 1955 was a good move by OVO who have a real hit on their hands with their production of The Ladykillers.

Admittedly they use the 2011 adaptation of the play by Graham Linehan but the essence of The Ladykillers remains the same and the fact that the film version of the original was one of the Ealing Comedies tells you a lot about its somewhat archaic content.

So while Linehan – who wrote for Father Ted and The IT Crowd – has produced a new script it is still set in the 1950s where a little old lady lets out a room in her house, little thinking that she has inadvertently invited a gang of robbers into her home.

And while there are no mobile phones, computers or any other technological trickery, it is great entertainment from the moment we meet Mrs Wilberforce and Constable Macdonald until they come together again at the finale.

OVO co-founder Simon Nicholas creates the film which fills in the gaps that are beyond the remit of a small local stage and very effective it is as well – whether it is members of the cast ‘on the roof’ to steam trains passing by the house.

Simon’s fellow co-founder Adam Nichols directs the production and his interpretation of the characters and the play itself brings out the best in the actors – all of whom get deservedly long applause at the end.

She may not thank me for this but the role of Mrs Wilberforce could have been written for Sue Dyson who puts in the type of comic performance she is renowned for – particularly when carrying a tray of tea cups across the stage.

Her first meeting with Dan Warren’s Professor Marcus is a real tour de force as is her subsequent relationship with his gang, particularly the cross-dressing Major Courtney played by Peter Wood.

David Smith as the spivvy Harry Robinson and Ed White as Louis Harvey are extremely comfortable in their roles and while I had my doubts initially about David Widdowson in the role of the simple Desmond ‘One-Round’ Lawson having seen him as a memorable Macbeth, he actually demonstrates that he is just as good at comedy.

The cast is completed by Will Franklin as the police constable – not to mention Mrs Jane Tromleyton and the macaw General Gordon. Will’s adaptability in taking all three roles is outstanding.

The Ladykillers runs until Saturday and is a guaranteed good night out. For tickets go to the St Albans Tourist Information Centre, online at www.ticketsource.co.uk/ovo or telephone 0333 6663366.

MADELEINE BURTON

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