"The WhatsOnStage Award-winning comedy returns"

"It’s a hugely entertaining show that looks set to become a big West End hit all over again."
-The Daily Telegraph-

"Verve and mayhem in this comedy reboot, but the real star is the gloriously crazy set"
-Evening Standard-

Sorry, The Ladykillers closed on 16 Nov 2013

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All filler and no killer for Sean Foley's revival production.

Critic Rating

10 July 2013, Vaudeville Theatre
Rebecca Rebecca

The Ladykillers was one of the most talked about plays of 2011 when it ran for a critically acclaimed limited season at the Gielgud Theatre. Now the “classic Ealing Comedy” is back in the West End at the Vaudeville Theatre and, unlike a fine wine, doesn’t seem to have matured with age. Perhaps it’s the curse of the Vaudeville, but something seems to be missing from the comeback show.

The show has been entirely recast since its first West End venture, which I think was definitely a mistake. The new line up include Simon Day, Raf Little, Chris McCalphy, Con O’Neill and John Gordon Sinclair, who in their own right have proven to be great and comedic actors, but in this production fail to find a unity and essential onstage chemistry. Angela Thorne was a sweet, lovely and adorably confused Mrs Wilberforce. She played the role like a cup of tea with two sugars, but lacked the deadly dash of arsenic that has previously made the role great.

Don’t get me wrong, the show was entertaining enough, but not the laugh riot it is made out to be. There were a few great moments of comedy, for instance when the gang are found clumped together in a cupboard when hiding from a policeman. The best part of the show was perhaps the most brief, the concert scene, in which a gaggle of grannies (or some mannies dressed as grannies!) come to Mrs Wilbeforces’s house for a tea time concerto. Sadly the nannas are gone to soon, never to be seen again. However there is no denying that the script drags in the second act and the gangstars deaths are laughable, but not in a good way.

The best part of the show is undoubtedly the collaboration between set designer Michael Taylor and special effects designer Scott Penrose , who together could create their own piece highly watchable theatre for the creepy jiggling chairs alone! I loved the birdcage motif and that the house was as crooked as the crooks in it; if only they had left as lasting an impression as the set did.

The Ladykillers is, for all its flaws, entertaining, just not groundbreaking so. It is certainly worth a watch if you can find a discounted ticket, which I suspect you might.

I wasn't completely sold on Graham Linehan's adaptation the first time round, and my feelings remain unchanged after a second look. Though there are a few killer lines (pardon the pun), most of the laughs stem not from the rather tepid script but from the physical comedy choreographed by director Sean Foley (and, on opening night, a fair few came courtesy of a malfunctioning blackboard). The comic high point remains the appearance of a gaggle of over-excited old ladies who turn up to hear the gangsters give a Boccherini recital...The new cast are a generally accomplished gang, each mining new laughs in often unexpected areas...All told The Ladykillers is a perfectly enjoyable way to wile away a summer's evening, though it struggles to match the accomplishment and charm of its source.

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Charles Spencer
The new cast is terrific. As someone still in thrall to Bill Forsyth’s enchanting romantic comedy Gregory’s Girl, I find it a bit odd seeing its lead John Gordon Sinclair playing the seedy professor, but he achieves the task with panache without quite eclipsing memories of Guinness’s unforgettably seedy performance, which was partly based on the theatre critic Kenneth Tynan. Angela Thorne brings a delightful mixture of sweetness and iron resolve to Mrs Wilberforce and among the criminal gang there are cracking comic performances from Con O’Neill as a psychotic Romanian; Chris McCalphy as the huge, spectacularly dim but touchingly good-natured One Round; Ralf Little as a pilled-up spiv with an improbable passion for housework; and Simon Day as the bogus major in a terrible wig whose face lights up whenever he spots the chance of dressing in women’s clothes.

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Fiona Mountford
Sinclair does a sturdy job of providing the pivot around which the action spins, although even he is defeated by an effortful ongoing gag involving an excessively long scarf. The dynamics of the ensemble around him are laboured at times; Little in particular could usefully tone down the ticks and twitches of his wide-boy pill-popper. After a tentative start Thorne settles comfortably into the physically demanding role of the indomitable old dear.

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