EXPECTATIONS for this black comedy – with a script penned by nothing less than a sitcom writing legend – were high.
Graham Linehan has an impressive CV which includes Father Ted and the IT Crowd and his influence on this piece, with its quick tempo and the scale of the excellent one-liners on offer, is there for all to see.
But that is only half the jigsaw and the other piece is getting those lines delivered and the comedy timing on the night definitely did the clever words justice.
The Ladykillers contained many elements of sitcom – recurring visual jokes and themes and a collection of colourful characters, each with their own idiosyncrasies and catchphrases.
There was bumbling idiot One Round (John Birchley), cross-dressing Major Courtney (James Cowlishaw) pill-popping young Cockney Harry Robinson (Jimmy Hill) and Romanian gangster Louis Harvey (Paul Steele) – all brilliantly played.
But the husband-wife combo of Kate Goode as doddery old lead Mrs Wilberforce and David Goode as the charming-to-the-max Prof Marcus edged the plaudits with absolutely outstanding performances.
It was a masterstroke by director Anne Lane to have a couple play the main roles as they bounced off each other with great aplomb.
It did pose me and the rest of those watching with a problem though (albeit a good one to have) as it was hard to decide which one you wanted to come out on top.
The play centres on eccentric but bored Mrs Wilberforce who, living alone with her parrot in a lopsided house, passes time by reporting fanciful suspicions to her local police
When gang leader Prof Marcus – planning a security van robbery – rents her spare room under the ruse of it being used for an amateur classical music band to practice in, farcical situations and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments ensue.
Poor Mrs Wilberforce also ends up being involved in the robbery and the hilarity, literally, reaches a crescendo at the end of the first act when the gang (of course with no musical experience) have to perform for the old lady’s friends.
In classical music terms, a ‘jig’ is a lively English piece and this play is a collection of two jigs – the first packed with comedy and the second packed with action, leading to the demise of the majority of the characters.
There is also a nice twist at the end (not sure what the classical music term is for that).
A mention also has to be given to set which, aided by selective spotlighting, allows the action to seamlessly switch between three areas of the house.
This is one of the funniest plays I have seen – thanks to a superb script brought to life by a talented cast and director – a pure situation comedy symphony.
The remaining performances are on Saturday, September 14, and from next Thursday to Saturday, September 19 to 21.
Tickets are £11 for adults (£10 for students, under 16s and those aged 60 and over).
Performances are at 7.30pm.
Visit norburytheatre.co.uk for more information and tickets.