Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

gang nd wilberforce

Keith Thompson (Professor Marcus), Helen Broadfield (Mrs. Wilberforce), Malc Williams (One-Round), Peter Baio (Harry), Carl Paskin (Major Courtney) and John Lines (Louis)

The Ladykillers

The Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


The Ladykillers still shines bright as one of the Ealing studio gems from the golden age of British film comedy.

And Graham Lineham’s stage adaptation of the 1955 classic film retains all the eccentric madness of the original with characters and a plot that would not have looked out of place in Monty Python.

We have the loopy Mrs Wilberforce who has a bald parrot we never see, and spends much of her time exposing spies, Nazi war criminals and aliens to her local police constable, PC Macdonald, played with spot-on timing by Christopher Kingsley.

She also has a room to let which brings in Prof Marcus as a lodger; he is a criminal mastermind (unproven) posing as the conductor of a string quintet. The quintet, who are master criminals (even more unproven) are then free to visit to . . . rehearse, or in this case, plan.

The film was the first major role for Peter Sellers as the pill happy Harry Robinson, played here with splendid twitchiness by Peter Baio as a spiv and walking pharmacy, with pills of every hue from uppers to downers and every inbetweeners. He has a tendency to twitch and also has an obsession with cleaning and dusting.

The film saw the splendid Herbert Lom as the sinister foreign assassin played here with a touch of the mafiosa, Romanian style, by the versatile John Lines, complete with gangster hat, black shirt, white tie and stiletto. A sinister display of comedy.


police and gang

Christopher Kingsley (Constable Macdonald) Malc Williams (One-Round) Mrs. Wilberforce (Helen Broadfield), Carl Paskin (Major Courtney), Keith Thompson (Professor Marcus)

Alec Guiness was drafted in for Prof Marcus, but the part was originally written for Alastair Sim and in the hands of Keith Thompson it is easy to see why as he bumbles his way through life with an excuse or explanation, usually as unlikely as they are untrue, for any eventuality.

It is a masterful performance with some wonderful lines, my favourite being his description of the elderly, widowed Mrs Wilberforce, and her regular calls to his room, as ‘like a geriatric cuckoo clock’.

Which brings us to a remarkable performance from director Helen Broadfield as the said cuckoo clock. It was not so much the performance itself, which could not be faulted and had some lovely touches, but its provenance, with Broadfield only taking on the role five days ago when the original actor became indisposed.

It is a big part, on stage all the time, apart from one small scene. You would expect the director to know the part well, but knowing it as director and knowing it as actor are two very different animals and she managed the switch with aplomb.

Meanwhile back at our quintet of crime we have Carl Paskin as Major Courtney, a man afraid of his own shadow, whose hands are never still as he fidgets and frets through life. He also has a penchant for lady’s clothes.


Helen Broadfield (Mrs. Wilberforce), Liz Greatwich & Liz Goldfinch (Guests), Michelle Whitfield (Mrs. Tromleyton), Jocelyn  Campbell (Guest)  and Malc Williams (One-Round)

Then bringing up the rear, with an IQ struggling to reach double figures, we have One Round, the punch drunk ex-boxer with a career of fixed fights behind him, played, slowly as the little wheels in his head turn, by Malc Williams.

Adding to the cast are the ladies in Mrs Wilberforce’s group of elderly friends who arrive for a concert by the Prof Marcus cacophony, which in this case is perhaps a safer description than quintet. Their only musical ability is knowing how to hold their instrument – and  One Note even struggled with that.

Thus all prim and proper, in trooped the group of five ladies led by Michelle Whitfield as Mrs Tromleyton, who professed to adore the music, or noise as most of us would hear it, having been told it was brilliant, in what was a quiet send up of modern music and the Emperor’s new clothes phenomenon.

Broadfield and fellow director Carolyn Young bring out the humour well, making sure no laughs are lost, while the pair, along with Andy Hares, have created a very workable, two level se with lighting and sound from Andrew Dunkley and Steve Willis working well to create the crashing of Kings Cross trains passing just beneath the Prof’s bedroom window.

Opening night suffered from a few second act technical problems resulting in a couple of longer than planned scene changes, but those will be easily ironed out to leave an excellent, and very funny evening’s entertainment. To 14-10-17

Roger Clarke



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