The last of the classic comedy films made by the legendary Ealing film studios, The Ladykillers is regarded as a genuine masterpiece of black comedy.
Released in 1955 to popular and critical acclaim, this darkly comic tale has endured the test of time and its popularity has never waned.
In 2011, Graham Linehan adapted the film for the stage and it has remained in near constant production ever since.
'It’s simply brilliant,' says the director of Fareham Musical Society’s forthcoming production, Nick Scovell.
'Linehan adapted the film for the stage to perfection. It remains faithful to the original, but still brings something new. It’s so witty and sharp. It has been a joy to work on.'
The story concerns a group of criminals who pose as musicians to execute a daring robbery.
They lodge with the delightfully batty Mrs Wilberforce in her lop-sided house. When she discovers their shameful secret, they plot to kill her over-night, but are ‘hoist with their own petards’…
Fareham Musical Society have enjoyed huge success with their stage productions of Fawlty Towers over the last few years. But, when they reached the end of the line with those (having presented every episode), they looked for something to replace it with.
'It seemed like a natural choice to follow our success of Fawlty Towers – a classic movie comedy following a classic TV comedy!' says Scovell. 'The play is presented in the style of a farce, with lots of running around and slamming of doors, so our experience with Fawlty Towers will stand us in good stead!'
Jonathan Redwood, who won plaudits for his portrayal of Basil Fawlty, returns in this production, this time playing the leader of the gang (originally played by Alec Guinness) – the sinister Professor Marcus.
'Oh, it has been such fun,' says Jonathan. 'Professor Marcus is a wonderfully dark, comic character. The script is so wonderfully funny. We have had a hard time keeping straight faces in rehearsals!'
Marina Voak, who plays the ‘Lady’ of the title, Mrs Wilberforce, has also been rising to the challenge.
'It’s great to work on such a wonderful script,' says Marina.
'Mrs Wilberforce is a delightful character – she’s always trying to make the gang tea and be helpful, but she turns out to be wilier than any of them!'
Set in 1956, this tale of robbery, deception, mad parrots, cross-dressing and the virtues of tea-time being at five o’clock, is guaranteed to have people rolling in the aisles in a wave of nostalgia and absurdity.
Ferneham Hall, Fareham