Back in the Christmas of 2011, a new stage version of classic Ealing comedy The Ladykillers had us crying tears of laughter. From its script, penned by Father Ted’s Graham Linehan, to its innovative direction by The Play What I Wrote’s Sean Foley and Michael Taylor’s show-stealing set, the comic crime caper was a gigglesome hit.
Now, like a criminal returning to the scene of his crime, the hilarious heist tale has returned, but with an entirely new set of funny felons. Former star of Gregory’s Girl John Gordon Sinclair leads the band as Professor Marcus, with Ralf Little (Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps, The Royle Family), Simon Day (The Fast Show), Con O’Neill (Olivier Award winner for Blood Brothers) and Chris McCalphy (The Madness Of George III) as his questionable accomplices.
We quizzed the quintet of Ladykillers stars about ideal gang members, laughter and the show. Here’s what they thought, but beware, there are a couple of criminal spoilers in the answers to question two.
How would you describe your character?
Sinclair: Professor Marcus is a conniving, untrustworthy, manipulative psychopath with a heart of lead, but in a fluffy sort of way.
Little: Vain, daft, likeable and hopelessly out of his depth.
McCalphy: He’s an ex-boxer who’s taken too many punches to the head. He struggles to understand what’s happening around him but is a keen member of the gang with a soft spot for Mrs Wilberforce.
Day: Funny and sad.
O’Neill: He’s a thug basically, perpetually raging against everything and everyone.
What is your favourite moment in the show?
Sinclair: Not so much a moment as a list of things. The cast, the set, the script & the curtain call… not always in that order.
Little: There are many but I think when the house first rattles is when the audience first realise they’re watching something quite special.
McCalphy: My death because it’s really enjoyable to do.
Day: My death because it is my first death scene.
O’Neill: I love watching John Gordon Sinclair doing his thing. I’ve known him for years but watching his work in this is a revelation. A real treat.
If you were putting together your own criminal gang – not that you ever would – who would you want in it with you?
Sinclair: I’d get George Bush, Tony Blair, mostly people of that ilk; people who have committed crimes but managed to get away with it.
Little: Stephen Fry to plan, Con O’Neill for the thuggery, Derren Brown for the confidence building and Simon Day to make us laugh when we inevitably get sent to prison.
McCalphy: Bruce Lee, Einstein, Angelina Jolie and Michael C Hall. They’d make a great gang.
Day: Simon Cowell as the mastermind.
O’Neill: The Kardashians. They deserve to be arrested.
If you could steal one precious object from the world – without anyone getting hurt or upset – what would it be?
Sinclair: The recipe for Stella Artois. I’d make my own in the garden shed and become a recluse.
Little: The World Cup. Because how cool would that be to have it on your mantelpiece (though people may get upset).
McCalphy: The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, then I’d sell it and give the money to Oxfam.
Day: Whistlejacket by George Stubbs. It’s a great picture.
O’Neill: Reality TV, because it’s sh**e!
What makes you laugh?
Sinclair: Pentapeptide: I think Garnier or L’Oreal make them but no one knows what they are.
Little: Simon Day. Because he’s hilarious.
McCalphy: Simon Day, he’s a very funny man.
Day: My kids, because I love them.
O’Neill: Simon Day. He’s a genuinely funny funny man.
What can audiences expect from The Ladykillers?
Little: Many, many laughs. And then more laughs.
McCalphy: A spectacular set, a compelling story, well acted and hopefully lots of laughter.
Day: Laughs, excitement, joy and pain.
O’Neill: A good night out. A brilliant set, a wonderful story, strong cast. And ice cream.