Sellers film makes its city stage debut

Danny Owen (far left) and John-Paul McCrohon (left) play two of the titular Ladykillers in CCADS' latest show.
Danny Owen (far left) and John-Paul McCrohon (left) play two of the titular Ladykillers in CCADS' latest show.
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Following their recent success at The News Guide Awards with wins for Best Amateur Drama (Birdsong) and Runner-Up for Best Musical (Tommy), CCADS returns to the Kings Theatre with the local premiere of comedy The Ladykillers.

Posing as amateur musicians, Professor Marcus and his gang rent rooms in the lopsided house of sweet but strict Mrs Wilberforce, which they plan to use as their base of operations for a bank heist.

The police are left stumped but Mrs Wilberforce becomes wise to their ruse and Marcus concludes that there is only one way to keep the old lady quiet.

With only her parrot, General Gordon, to help her, Mrs Wilberforce is alone with five desperate men. But who will be forced to face the music?

Based on the classic 1955 Ealing film, the stage adaptation by Graham Linehan, writer of Father Ted and The IT Crowd, will debut in Portsmouth after successful stints in the West End.

CCADS artistic director John-Paul McCrohon directs and stars in the play alongside local actors Sheila Birt, Tony Dart, Peter Colley, Sean Ridley, Danny Owen, Peter McCrohon and Brenda Kent.

‘As well as the sense of dark comedy that creeps through all the Ealing films, what the stage version has is this classic farce structure so it has been a joy to rehearse,’ says John-Paul.

John-Paul plays the lead role of Professor Marcus.

‘He is the mastermind of the criminal gang – he has a reputation that goes before him.

‘He is able to present himself as this very genial, gentlemanly guy but he is on a knife edge – the mania is never too far from the surface. It has been a great character to explore, to get these two sides of him to co-exist.’

Danny, 45, from Gosport, plays Romanian hardman Louis.

‘He’s an outsider – the others have worked together but he has been brought in as the muscle,’ says Danny.

‘Out of all of the characters he is the straight man.The others have got funny traits but he has always got an undertone of threat about him. Apart from the occasional misuse of English – he doesn’t understand the subtleties of the language.’

The film which the play is based on stars Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers, two actors with a local connection.

Alec Guinness was a Petersfield resident while Peter Sellers (whose role in the CCADS production is played by Sean) was born in Southsea.

‘He made his stage debut at the Kings Theatre itself in the late 1920s at the age of two as part of his parents’ variety act,’ says John-Paul.

‘It seems a fitting tribute to the memory of one of Southsea’s favourite sons that the stage version of one of his finest films will finally take its bow at the first theatre he performed in.’

The Ladykillers will be performed at the Kings Theatre, Southsea on Friday March 20 and Saturday March 21 at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.

There will be a free Q&A with the cast and crew following Friday’s performance. Tickets: £9-14, call the box office on (023) 9282 8282 or visit