Ladykillers at The Watermill

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The Ladykillers

Watermill, Bagnor   Tuesday 27 October 2015

The production of “The Ladykillers” at the Watermill Theatre just outside Newbury was as enjoyable for the environment as the performance; the Watermill is a lovely 220-seat theatre and restaurant located in a disused corn mill dating back from the 1830s. The restaurant offers an excellent pre- or post-theatre hot and cold buffet; in the summer, dinner in the conservatory or outside on the lawn would be extremely agreeable. As it was, on the cold and drizzly Tuesday that the Upton Theatre Group visited, the Watermill Restaurant provided a warm and sociable environment for dinner.

The play was staged on a tiny, precariously sloping set which managed to ingeniously host an ailing parrot, four murders, two car chases, a string quintet and its audience, a rooftop chase and a railway line. The small stage area required almost balletic choreography as the cast dodged and ducked around each other, cramming themselves into tiny spaces and juggling an improbable amount of luggage. There were many elements of classic farce in the production blended with the character-based comedy.

The script, adapted by Graham Linehan from the original film screenplay by William Rose, was similar in style to Linehan’s most well-known work, Father Ted and The IT Crowd. The quirks and tics of the oddball villains were hilariously realised by the cast, particularly the winking, twitching Major (Dermot Canavan) and obsessively polishing Harry (Harry Katsari).  The moral of the original screenplay, that “in the worst of men, there is a little bit of good that can destroy them”, applied to all of the gang apart from the smooth, psychopathic ringleader Professor Marcus (played by the gangly and almost rubberised Paul Mundell) who was only undone by his choice of accomplices and scarves.

Having seen the 2004 Coen Brothers film which is quite good but is unfortunately rather less than the sum of its parts, I wasn’t expecting the manic, laugh-out-loud, sometimes breathtakingly ingenious production that was the Watermill Ladykillers.  Combined with the very enjoyable (albeit a little expensive) dinner, it was an excellent evening and I will be keeping an eager eye on the Watermill What’s On web page for future opportunities to repeat the experience.

Jane Pettman

2 November 2015