Theatre Review: ‘The Ladykillers’ at The Shaw Festival

The cast of “The Ladykillers” at The Shaw Festival. Photo by David Cooper.

There are few things more satisfying that a well done comedy. To genuinely laugh out loud (instead of the LOL we type with a straight face) is a great feeling, and the Shaw Festival’s production of Graham Linehan’s “The Ladykillers” is chock full of chortle-inducing moments.

. . .the incredible cast never missed a beat. . .

The play is based on the film screenplay by William Rose, and follows one rather eccentric woman, Mrs. Wilberforce, in post-World War II London as she rents a spare room to a group of musicians wishing to have a place to practice. However, the musicians are actually criminals using the room to compose the greatest heist, and later consequential murder of all time. Mrs. Wilberforce unknowingly gets involved, leading to hilarious circumstance after circumstance until a fitting conclusion.

Chick Reid is a treat as the sometimes dim-witted but always well-intentioned Mrs. Wilberforce. She brings a lot of spunk to a character who initially seems like a typical clueless old lady and quickly enchants the audience as an unlikely heroine.

Leading the musically-challenged band of criminals is Damien Atkins as Professor Marcus. Pardon yet another musical pun, but he hits all the right notes as the Nervous Nellie ringleader of the aspiring thieves. Atkins’ lankiness and fluidity also makes for some outrageously good physical comedy as he struggles to calmly execute his plan.

Martin Hopper, Andrew Lawrie, Ric Reid and Steven Sutcliffe round out the ensemble of mischievous men, each saddled with an important piece of the heist and challenged by hilarious obstacles along the way. Whether they’re hiding in a closet, pretending to play instruments or arguing over who is the best candidate to murder someone, each shines in their respective roles.

Arguably the most important character in “The Ladykillers” is Judith Bowden’s incredibly detailed and dynamic two-story, 360-degree set. The actors thankfully utilize every inch of the interior and exterior of Mrs. Wilberforce’s house and, when it comes time for the heist, Bowden presents it, in its entirety, in an incredibly genius use of space and technology.

“The Ladykillers” is easily my favorite show I’ve seen at the Shaw Festival in recent years. The audience was laughing constantly and the incredible cast never missed a beat, earning the show a worthy spot at the top of any theater-goer’s bucket list.

Running Time: approximately two hours and 20 minutes including one intermission.

“The Ladykillers” is playing at the Festival Theatre through October 12. For tickets and more information, click here.