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Theatre review: Goofy adaptation lacks Killer punchlines

It was probably the remote-controlled cars that did it. Up until then, Graham Linehan's goofy adaptation of the goofier 1955 film, The Ladykillers, was doing fine. A pill-popping kleptomaniac had been hit across the head with a blackboard at least three times, and Professor Marcus's scarf was still getting caught under Mrs Wilberforce's foot, but what else did we expect?

The film was a bit of a laugh; the Coen brothers' remake, less so. This was somewhere in the middle – right up until those damn cars arrived.


I get it: The Ladykillers wouldn't be the same without its famous robbery scene, when the Professor and his band of criminals finally pull off a plan that, in order to be stitched together, had required renting a room from the delusional Mrs Wilberforce (she thinks they're musicians). Unfortunately, Linehan (Father Ted, Black Books) and director Sean Foley resort to toys in order to get their point across.

It is typically Linehan – unique in its own preposterous manner. For me, it was the turning point. Here, the otherwise reliable writer piles on the slapstick, hammering home silly punchlines, and actual punches, a little harder than necessary. Linehan and Foley give it a decent shot. At best, it's a lopsided tribute.



Mrs Wilberforce's house is easily the best thing about it. Indeed, the actors portraying a madcap line-up of stereotypical bandits appear to be having great fun while exploring every crack of this lively, visually-pleasing set. At one stage, the lads end up in a cupboard – later on, they're falling out windows and over balconies. It's not funny, mind. And it's a bit dated.

Perhaps the only way to bring this film to the stage was to place it in the hands of a sitcom writer and allow him to go wild. That's exactly what's happened. But it should have been better.



Running until Saturday