REVIEW: Band of brothers take on the tea queen in classic black comedy packed with laughs

Peter Drew as Major Courtney, Darryl Crawley as Harry, Martin James as One Round & Neil Arbon as Professor Marcus in Sudbury Dramatic Society's 'The Ladykillers'
Peter Drew as Major Courtney, Darryl Crawley as Harry, Martin James as One Round & Neil Arbon as Professor Marcus in Sudbury Dramatic Society's 'The Ladykillers'

Sudbury Dramatic Society’s The Ladykillers was the tightest showing I have seen from the society, the bond between the five male leads cemented by the central performance by Anthea Halstead as Mrs Wilberforce.

Written by Graham Linehan, author of Father Ted and of The IT Crowd, this classic black comedy is based on the original much-loved Ealing Comedy.

Cameron Sawyer as Louis in Sudbury Dramatic Society's 'The Ladykillers'

Cameron Sawyer as Louis in Sudbury Dramatic Society's 'The Ladykillers'

The original production was a huge success in London’s West End.

In a house near King’s Cross station, a criminal gang moves in with a sweet little old woman and her diseased parrot.

Posing as amateur musicians, they proceed to plot to rob the mail train, but they reckon without their determined landlady and, as their plans start coming off the rails, the comedy darkens and the gang begins to disintegrate.

The band of lovable rogues are led by Professor Marcus (Neil Arbon). You even feel a soft spot for the dangerous Romanian killer Louis Harvey (Cameron Sawyer).

Anthea Halstead as Mrs Wilberforce in Sudbury Dramatic Society's 'The Ladykillers'

Anthea Halstead as Mrs Wilberforce in Sudbury Dramatic Society's 'The Ladykillers'

I have seen and praised Sawyer’s previous performances at Ormiston Sudbury Academy, so it was nice to see him stepping across and joining the society’s ranks.

The five criminals each have their own eccentricities, from the twitching and stammering Major Courtney (Peter Drew) to the slow and cumbersome One Round (Martin James).

I’m sure I’m not the only one who saw more than a hint of Of Mice and Men’s Lennie Small in James’ character.

The men were brought together with their cunning plan to rob the train, but performance wise it was the nosey landlady Mrs Wilberforce who gave the show its flow ... and an ever-ready supply of tea.

It is rare that I mention the staging, but the set design team did a remarkable job turning the Quay’s small stage into a two-storey, bomb damaged house next to the tracks, with its own dangerous ledge overlooking the tracks.

Written by Graham Linehan, there were, of course, a number of witty one liners.

One of my favourite moments was the short cameo of the ladies, when Mrs Wilberforce invites her excitable friends over for tea; it’s at three.

The five minutes of chaos as they make a fuss over old-lady hating Louis made their brief foray on to stage more than worthwhile.

Constable MacDonald (Mark Scanlon) also provides light entertainment with Mrs Wilberforce as he deals with her unbelievable tales of invasions, international espionage and bank robberies.

The Ladykillers runs until Saturday. For tickets, call 01787 374745.