Last week, Director Mr Handy and Assistant Director Ms Cox brought Linehan’s stage adaptation of The Ladykillers to the Farrer Theatre in a scintillating fashion. The performance was accompanied by a live jazz band.
The play portrays a motley crew who plan a bank robbery from the confines of an old widow’s abode, under the guise of being classical musicians. It is the epitome of true British comedy while simultaneously a testament to the great danger of hamartia. The recurring arrival of the train in the theatre is foreboding and sinister, particularly as the theatre is robbed of light and even the pictures in Mrs Wilberforce’s house begin to shake. However, this atmosphere was quickly destroyed with the entry of our infamous crew.
The set contained a number of oddities including turning pictures and a veiled parrot. Indeed, it was a welcome surprise to hear the first squawk of General Gordon (George W). The set had a second storey, allowing the audience to view the crew’s rehearsals in the bedroom. These rehearsals mainly consisted of planning their bank robbery, receiving gallons of tea, and playing their gramophone to deceive Mrs Wilberforce (Kit WP) so that they would believe that they are musical geniuses.
The plan is spearheaded by Professor Marcus (Tristan B) who is both adept in his use of satire and the mastermind behind the ploy. A highlight of the play was when The Major (Thomas R), normally a coward, pranced centre stage while holding a dress. This was to the great dismay of the Romanian, Louis Harvey (Thomas T), whose motto throughout the production is “I don’t like old ladies.” Ironically, he is the only crew member that recognises any foibles in the plan.
After the robbery, the criminals all return to their humble abode. Dramatic irony is rife within the play, yet it is most apparent when Constable Macdonald (Hector B) converses with Mrs Wilberforce on how the whole police force tried to find the robbers but to no avail; the true culprits have been stuffed in a cupboard and the opening of the door was a sight to behold. Namely, Harry Robinson (Billy H) who remained in the closet, quickly changed out of his incriminating gear. The Professor somehow managed to talk his way out of the situation and Constable Macdonald soon departed. Little did the audience know of the true disaster awaiting them. Their ploy indeed fails when the money is dropped on the floor, right in front of Mrs Wilberforce. Professor Marcus attempts to resolve the situation with his quick-witted remarks and justifications, but his crewmate One-Round (Jasper C) proves to be a liability when he blatantly reveals that they robbed the bank. Thus, chaos ensues and, not long after, a concert takes place.
The musical piece is called ‘Teatime at Five’ and was allegedly composed for a quartet. It was performed with surprising ambition for people who had never played string instruments. Also, it involved revolutionary techniques such as scraping the strings with the bow and a bizarre number of intonation errors. Yet, the horde of old ladies, who most likely have diminished hearing, deemed the composition a masterpiece and swooned over the musicians. Their reaction was comical, to say the least, and provoked many laughs from the audience. After this concert has finished, all serenity is lost, and their numbers begin to dwindle rapidly. They all begin to kill each other off, due to misunderstandings and murder. This proceeds until Professor Marcus kills Louis by strangling him due to the Professor’s obsession with money. However, by the end of the play, even the Professor was unsuccessful, meeting his ghastly end on the train tracks. In contrast, Mrs Wilberforce reigns supreme as the Constable does not believe her whimsical story of robbers disguised as classical musicians.
The effort and demanding work put into this play, both on and off stage was evident throughout, ranging from the meticulous set, the powerful directing, and the impressive acting. Billy, who plays Harry Robinson, said, “it was an honour to fill the Farrer Theatre on our opening night.” Massive congratulations are deserved for all the boys in JDM.