17th - 19th March, 2016
2016 Phoebe Rees Awards
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Iain Muton-Phillips as Harry
Best Artistic Impression
Mrs. Louisa Alexandra Wilberforce is a sweet and eccentric old widow who lives alone with her raucous parrots in a gradually subsiding "lopsided" house, built over the entrance to a railway tunnel in Kings Cross, London. With nothing to occupy her time and an active imagination, she is a frequent visitor to the local police station where she reports fanciful suspicions regarding neighbourhood activities. Having led wild-goose chases in the past, she is humoured by the officers there who give her reports no credence whatever.
After the heist, "Mrs. W" is deceived into retrieving the disguised "lolly" from the railway station herself. This she successfully manages to do but not without serious complications owing to her tendency to righteous meddling. Now the real difficulties begin. As the gang departs her house with the loot, 'One-Round' accidentally gets his cello case full of banknotes trapped in the front door. As he pulls the case free, banknotes spill forth while Mrs. Wilberforce looks on. Finally, smelling a rat, she informs Marcus that she is going to the police.
The Major loses but tries to make a run for it with the cash. As the oblivious Mrs. W dozes, the criminals cross, double-cross and manage to kill one another in rapid succession. The Major falls off the roof of the house after being chased by Louis; Harry is killed by One-Round who thinks Harry has killed Mrs. W after having a change of heart; One-Round tries to shoot Louis and Marcus when he overhears a plan to double-cross him but leaves the gun's safety catch on and is himself killed by Louis; Marcus kills Louis by dislodging his ladder under the tunnel behind the house causing Louis to fall into a passing railway wagon. Before falling into the carriage Louis fires a last shot at Marcus which nearly hits him. Finally with no one else left Marcus himself is struck on the head by a railway semaphore signal over the tunnel and drops into another wagon. All the other bodies have been dumped into railway wagons passing behind the house and are now far away.
Mrs. Wilberforce is now left alone with the plunder. She goes to the police to return it but they do not believe her story. They humour her, telling her to keep the money. She is puzzled but finally relents and returns home. Along the way, she leaves a banknote of enormous denomination with a startled "starving artist".
Written by Graham Linehan, the fable of The Ladykillers is a comic and ironic joke about the condition of postwar England. After the war, the country was going through a kind of quiet, typically British but nevertheless historically fundamental revolution. Though few people were prepared to face up to it, the great days of the Empire were gone for ever.
Mrs Wilberforce, with nods to her Navy husband, and her aged friends are upstanding Old Britiain – conservative sterness rapping the fingers of economic innovation.
British society was shattered with the same kind of conflicts appearing in many other countries: an impoverished and disillusioned upper class, a brutalised working class, juvenile delinquency among the mods and rockers, an influx of foreign and potentially criminal elements, and a collapse of "intellectual" leadership. All of these threatened the stability of the national character.
She is approached by an archly sinister character, 'Professor' Marcus, who wants to rent rooms in her house. She is not aware that he has assembled a gang of hardened criminals for a sophisticated security van robbery at King's Cross Station: the gentlemanly and easily fooled con-man 'Major' Claude Courtney; the comedic Cockney spiv Harry Robinson ; the slow-witted and "punch drunk" ex-boxer 'One-Round' Lawson; and the murderous, cruel and vicious continental gangster Louis Harvey. As a cover, the "Professor" convinces the naive Mrs. Wilberforce that the group is an amateur string quintet using the rooms for rehearsal space. To maintain the deception, the gang members carry musical instruments and play a recording of Boccherini's Minuet (3rd movement) from String Quintet in E, Op. 11 No. 5 during their planning sessions.
Stalling, the gangsters half convince Mrs. W that she will surely be considered an accomplice for holding the lolly. In any case, it is a victimless crime as insurance will cover all the losses and the police will probably not even accept the money back. She wavers but when she rallies the criminals finally decide they must kill her. No one wants to do it so they draw lots using matchsticks.