In 1954 William Rose, an American scriptwriter, woke his wife Tania in the small hours saying he had had a strange dream, in which five criminals were living in a house with a little old lady.  He told her the entire plot of ‘The Ladykillers’ and promptly went back to sleep.  The next morning he remembered nothing – but thankfully his wife recalled it all.  The script he wrote as a result became the famous Ealing Studios comedy film starring Alec Guinness, later adapted into a stage play by the respected comedy writer Graham Linehan (Father Ted, The IT Crowd, Count Arthur Strong, Black Books).

Linehan’s  play has now come to The Apollo Theatre, as hilarious a farce as ever.  Most people will know of this immensely entertaining crime caper as one of Ealing Studios’ finest offerings, in which the redoubtable elderly widow Mrs. Wilberforce, who likes to report suspicious behaviour to the police, rents out rooms in her house to the dapper Professor Marcus (originally and unforgettably played by Alec Guinness) and his cohort of thieves without honour, constantly bickering among themselves.  Posing as a string quintet, they pull off a bank robbery, but slip up in front of the old lady as they try to escape.  Agreed that they need to murder her, the bumbling crooks prove no match for Mrs Wilberforce’s old-fashioned Victorian values: they’re dispatched to their early graves with witty heartlessness, as she goes magisterially on her way, hatpin firmly in place.  This is a fascinating and complex black comedy which transcends its apparently simplistic plot: it can be seen as an allegory on the state of Britain at mid-century (it was originally filmed in 1955), symbolising decrepit England in extremis, with its feeble, grasping, self-deluded citizens and the faded idealism of the British Empire that is holding the nation back – or you can simply sit back and enjoy its near flawless script and laugh at the familiar but somehow still sinister jokes.

The Cast

DirectorDi Evans
Constable MacdonaldNick Turvey
Mrs Louisa WilberforceMarylyn Ford
Professor MarcusMichael Arnell
Major CourtneyIan Moth
Harry RobinsonPete Harris
One-RoundPaul Gwinnett
Louis HarveyDave Newton
Mrs Jane TromleytonChris Turvey

 Production photos