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The Ladykillers

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars
The dramatic and musical cacophony that dovetails the two acts of
Graham Linehan's audacious adaptation of William Rose's classic Ealing
comedy speaks volumes about the post World War Two little Britain
occupied by the disparate gang of get-rich-quick villains at the play's
heart. By posing as a string quartet, the charming Professor Marcus and
his coterie of crooks made up of a cross-dressing major, a pill-popping
teddy-boy, a muscle-headed sidekick and a European psychopath may
appear respectable in the eyes of Marcus' new land-lady, Mrs
Wilberforce. Yet, as with the revolving set that allows the audience in
to Mrs Wilberforce's crumbling King's Cross pile in Richard Baron's
slickly realised revival, it's easy to see beyond the polite facade
towards something messier and more complex.

While Mrs Wilberforce is spotting Nazi spies in the newsagent, the
dog-eat-dog aspirations of Marcus and co points to a crueller future
beyond the never-had-it-so-good years to come. Other than Marcus'
declaration to Mrs Wilberforce when she becomes an accidental
accomplice to the crime that “We're all in this together,” this is
never overplayed in Baron's exquisitely realised affair.  As the last
gasps of old orders seem to triumph even as they're falling apart,
Linehan's version doesn't put a bomb under Rose's original screenplay,
exactly, but you know there's one lurking undiscovered in the long
grass somewhere.

Granville Sexton mines an ambivalent vein of malevolence and
ridiculousness as Marcus, with Sally Grace's Mrs Wilberforce the
trusting face of old-school decency who gets lucky despite herself. If
these two are two sides of the same antique coin, the end result is a
moral victory which these days looks like the most whimsical of wishful
thinking.

The Herald, November 3rd 2014
ends

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