Reviewed by Jan Dixon
I attended the opening night of the classic Ealing comedy ‘The Ladykillers’ at Ferneham Hall in Fareham on Wednesday 6th June 2018. The original film was released in 1955, from a script written by William Rose. In 2011 Graham Lineham produced an original stage version, which was performed by Fareham Musical Society tonight and will be on Thursday 7th June and Friday 8th June 2018.
The story is a comedy based on an older lady, Mrs Wilberforce, who lets rooms in her boarding house. She takes in a gentleman lodger, who then invites his four colleagues round on the pretext of rehearsing music for a concert. The five men pretend to play musical instruments, but they are really planning a robbery. To cover up their inability to play any instruments, a gramophone is used to convince Mrs Wilberforce of their musical prowess, playing Boccherini. When the crooks’ plans are revealed to Mrs Wilberforce, they plan to silence her…
The eight main cast members, with three additional performers, took on the roles assigned very competently. Marina Voak played the role of Mrs Wilberforce as a straight character, acting the part of a slightly dotty and naïve widow. She was very believable in her role, with faultless timing and characterisation of an older genteel lady. The main male role of Professor Marcus was played by Jonathan Redwood, who emulated the acting talent of Alex Guinness (in the film version) in his portrayal of the ringleader of the crooks. His use of his overlong scarf as a comedic prop was a joy to watch; indeed his interactions with this prop and Mrs Wilberforce worked very well. Each of the other crooks; Louis Harvey (Stuart Frank); Harry Robinson (Sean Ridley); Major Courtney (Alex Howat) and One-Round (Gareth Billington-Ryan) had their own idiosyncrasies’, played to perfection. Constable MacDonald (Roger Trencher) really did appear as a believable policeman, who is to be congratulated.
The play was very well enacted, with the scenery highlighting the different aspects of the story. Most of the story was played out in Mrs Wilberforce’s house, with lighting used very effectively to focus on the different rooms. The train track behind the house was simplistically shown by a railway signal; with the trains’ arrival and departure indicated by utilising artificial smoke. Not only was the stage used, but part of the floor by the audience; which helped with the intimate nature of the performance. Change of scenes was well managed, with the use of incidental music to good effect.
Do come and see the play over the next two nights – you will not be disappointed! Very well acted, with believable characters who played their parts with gusto. Laugh out loud moments as the incompetency of the crooks became more extreme as their plans to deceive began to fall apart. The ‘straight’ acting of Mrs Wilberforce (Marina Voak) provided a perfect foil, highlighting the storyline. I would recommend this show with a 5 star rating – well deserved.
I would to thank the staff at Ferneham Hall for being so welcoming to the venue and for taking such a personal interest in making sure all patrons were looked after to the highest standard. Ferneham Hall is on Osborne Road, behind Fareham Shopping Centre and adjacent to Osborn Road multi-storey carpark. There is also provision for parking immediately outside Ferneham Hall. All parking is free after 6pm. If you are coming by road there is easy access off Junction 11 of the M27; by rail the venue is a 15 minute walk from the railway station.
Tickets cost from £13 to £15 (booking fees may apply).
The Ladykillers is at the Ferneham Hall in Fareham from 6-8 June 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.fernehamhall.co.uk or call the box office on 01329 231942.
Ferneham Hall, Osborn Road, Fareham, Hampshire, PO16 7DB | 01329 231942