REVIEW: The Ladykillers – Duston Players


It’s been a little while since I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing anything am-dram related – thanks in no small part to the pandemic. The Ladykillers marks Duston Players second production back since the Covid lockdown in March 2020 scuppered its outing way back then.

Based on the 1955 Ealing Comedy of the same name, The Ladykillers is the story of an intricate bank robbery that goes disasterously, and hilariously wrong, due to good intentioned meddling from one old lady (and a group of her pals).

It’s not an easy production to stage – the story demands a multi-storey house (with subsidance) and a rooftop, plus constant and timely interuptions from the express train to Newcastle – but Duston Players have managed to do a great deal with their stage at the Duston Community Centre. Allen Kitching‘s design brings the wonky house to life with walls at odd angles, and picture frames that don’t quite behave.

Debbie Malcolm, a very familiar face to those who’ve been to Duston performances before, holds her own as the dear and excentric Mrs Wilberforce – and should be applauded alongside Alistair Way as Constable MacDonald for maintaining character when, five minutes in, Duston suffered a community wide power cut! They barely missed a beat as they performed for a few minutes under the centre’s emergency lighting.

Alec Guinness is no mean act to follow, but Andy Whalley owns the stage as Professor Marcus, wafting his scarf around with an air of self importance and occasional menace. He’s surrounded by his band of miscreants; cowardly con-man Major Courtney (James Burgess), cockney spiv Harry Robinson (Chris Mathewman), permanently punch drunk One-Round (Mike Sydee) and vicious Romanian gangster Louis Harvey (John Myhill) who collectively pretend to perform as a string quintet as a cover for their criminal intentions. The script allows each hardened criminal apt opportunity for comedy, especially of the phsyical variety, but special mentions must go to Sydee who stole entire scenes just by saying his name, and Mathewman’s dramatic fall in Act 1!

That said, the script has it’s issues – and while some of the more old fashioned mocking relating to Majour Courtney’s interest in women’s clothing are direct from the film, those familiar with writer Graham Linehan’s presence on (and subsequent banishment from) social media may find those segments uncomfortable.

Add in the gaggle of Mrs Wilberforce’s old lady friends (Zoe Favell, Michelle Hill, Amanda Rose, Toni Clarke, Carole Knowles, Caitlin Badcock and Laura Martin) headed up by the enthusiatic Mrs Jane Tromleyton (Mandy Marriott), who all have an unhealthy interest in the “musicians”, and the maniacal sqwarking of one General Gordon (Marianne Poynter voices the unseen parrot) and the chaos of The Ladykillers is complete.

Although perhaps a little lacking in pace in the second half on this opening night, The Ladykillers was laugh out loud funny, and packed with fabulous performances. Director Tim Dwelly has done a lot with not a lot of space containing quite a lot of actors, and it’s clear that everyone, on the stage and out in the audience, is having a wonderful time.

Support your local community theatre group, and head down to Duston Community Centre until Sat 26 March – tickets available