The Ladykillers review at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich – ‘clunky and mirthless’

The cast of The Ladykillers at New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich. Photo: Mike Kwasniak The cast of The Ladykillers at New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich. Photo: Mike Kwasniak
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Originally a classic Ealing comedy starring Alec Guinness, then an under-par Coen brothers rehash with Tom Hanks, and finally a West End play with a script by Graham Linehan, William Rose’s The Ladykillers has been around the block.

This farcical fable of cut-throat crims committing a daring robbery, only to fall foul of the delusional old dear downstairs isn’t so much dog-eared, as dog-tired.

Linehan’s stage adaptation moved from Liverpool to London and on to a national tour in its original form back in 2011. New Wolsey artistic director Peter Rowe has decided to revive here, in a co-production with Salisbury Playhouse and Hornchurch’s Queen’s Theatre that will no doubt prove a lucrative nostalgi-smash for all involved. Why else bring it back?

While the original staging boasted the combined comic chops of Peter Capaldi, Marcia Warren, Ben Miller and more, Rowe’s revival does not.

Foxton’s multi-level, steam-spouting set has a comforting, Miss Marple charm to it, and the uneven cast tackle Linehan’s humour with gusto – there’s decent turns from Sam Lupton as a pill-popping Cockney chancer and from Damian Williams as his lumbering, dunderheaded accomplice – but Rowe’s direction is clunky than it is classy, farcical in the wrong way as often as in the right – and the results make for a mirthless evening.

A clunky revival of Graham Linehan's adaptation of the classic Ealing comedy