Theatre review - The Ladykillers, Theatre by the Lake, Keswick

Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake (TBTL) has opened the summer season in the main house with Graham Linehan’s stage adaptation of the Ealing comedy classic ‘The Ladykillers’.

Ironically, given the gentle mocking and stereotyping of British characteristics, the original movie script was written by an American, William Rose. Nevertheless, the quintessential Britishness of decency and gentlemanly conduct - even among criminals - shines through, though it proves to be the undoing of the gang.

This play is a textbook slapstick farce with a gang of robbers fall foul of a series of mishaps and, of course, their landlady - the frail old eccentric Mrs Wilberforce. As such, the production is ideal both for older generations who remember the golden era of slapstick and younger ones too who may be experiencing 'grown up' theatre for the first time. There's the occasional moment of mild swearing and ultimately the comedy is a black one - talk of murder and deaths abound in the second act - but the overall feeling is one of gentle fun and great silliness which will be appreciated by young and old alike.

I'm of a generation which grew up on the great Ealing comedies (repeating on just three TV channels) and, though I have not seen the classic 1955 movie since I was a boy, I found large parts of the story coming back to me with fondness, as I watched the stage production. It is early days with the run and some comic timings need a little polishing (so vital with slapstick to avoid humour falling flat) but the cast were such fun you couldn't help but fall a little in love with all of their characters. Most lovable perhaps was that of One-Round, played perfectly by Eric Potts, who constantly hasn't a clue what's going (or even what his fake name is) but is the most decent and kind of all the gang. I look forward to seeing the actor in two more productions at TBTL this year.

For a little bit of nostalgic silliness then, 'The Ladykillers' is as good a place as any to go and a fun way to start what will hopefully be a cracking summer for us all.

'The Ladykillers' is showing at Theatre by the Lake's Main House until 30 October. To find out more call the Box Office on 017687 74411 or visit