Wednesday, 16 November 2011

On Liverpool's Ladykillers

Since we got back from Scotland at the weekend we have spent a great deal of time with Marion's mum. But we took a few hours off last night to go and see The Ladykillers at Liverpool Playhouse. We booked the tickets ages ago before Flo's memory started to deteriorate badly and it was perhaps ironic that the plot of the play we had chosen to see revolves around an old lady with a bad memory.

The show, which is moving to The Gielgud in London shortly, is a good old fashioned farce scripted by Graham Linehan of Father Ted and the IT Crowd fame. It is a resurrection of the famous 1950's Ealing comedy with Alec Guinness' lead role of Professor Marcus played here by Peter Capaldi who heads a strong cast. Being preoccupied with Flo's troubles we hadn't much time to read up on the cast before the play and, as we also didn't buy a programme, we failed to spot Ben Miller as the bearded Romanian gangster in the "string quartet". Miller has been a great favourite of ours since his wonderful BBC comedy The Worst Week Of My Life but even when we spotted his comedy parter Alexander Armstrong in the audience we failed to twig. 

For me the star of the show was the set. This was a spectacular piece of workmanship which could surely never have been afforded if this was just to be a two week run at the Liverpool Playhouse. Revolving from terraced street to 50's interior to smoky rooftops and then to railway tunnel, it was worth the ticket price on its own - quite spectacular and beautiful. That's not to say that the cast were not stars too. Capaldi was a brilliant manic criminal mastermind and was matched with fine performances from Miller, James Fleet as the cross dressing major, Clive Rowe as the lovable dope One Round and Steven Wight as a cockney petty thief with a penchant for drugs. Marcia Warren plays the forgetful old lady very convincingly and Graham Linehan's script has plenty of laughs.

Sadly, for me, the audience had an average age of well over fifty and there was a distinct lack of young people amongst us. It was not as bad as the Gilbert and Sullivan opera we saw at the Lowry last year when we were probably the youngest there but it does not bode well for the future of live theatre. Perhaps with Linehan, Capaldi and Miller's popularity it may attract a younger crowd when it hits the West End. I hope it does as it's an enjoyable night out. 

Having seen this and James Corden's One Man Two Masters in the past couple of months I think it is worth a comparison. Each is old fashioned in style, each has an excellent cast including famous TV names, each relies upon a degree of slapstick and farce but, much as we enjoyed both, Corden's One Man Two Masters is more in tune with the 21st century and, consequently, a lot funnier. I would recommend both but if you could only see one, my recommendation would not be The Ladykillers. It's funny (not hilarious), brilliantly acted, beautifully designed but, like Blithe Spirit which we also saw this year, it is very much a piece from the past.

We were back to reality today when we took our own forgetful old lady to start a new life in a care home. It felt a little like a bereavement as we left her flat for the last time and it was difficult for all of us leaving her, after settling her into he room, looking like a child on the first day of school. We won't be abandoning her and will be making plenty of visits but that doesn't assuage an underlying feeling of guilt that probably won't go away until we are sure that she is happy in her new environment.