The Ladykillers, Bear Pit Theatre Company, Stratford, until March 21
It is hard not to love The Ladykillers. It is one of Ealing Studios’ most enduring films, and the stage version only confirms that there is something in the story that touches the heart, no matter what the age.
Perhaps it is to do with its central character, Mrs Wilberforce, a dotty old lady of irredeemable likeability, who is bamboozled by the mad machinations of Professor Marcus and his knock-about crew in their slapstick robbery plan.
Her innocence, helped by the incompetence of the robbers, ultimately bring the Professor’s cunning plan to its end; and so we emerge, our cheeks stiff from smiling, assured that the wicked will always get their dues in the end.
Behind this production is a wealth of experience. Professor Marcus (Paul Tomlinson) is as slimy as a jellied eel, all teeth and strange tics, while Pamela Hickson is floral as Mrs Wilberforce.
Philip Hickson brings depth to the would-be cross-dresser Major Courtney, and Richard Ball as Louis is a master of dark understatement.
Dominic Skinner is all nervous energy as the wide boy Harry Robinson, and David Gresham is sweet as the heavyweight One Round.
Steve Farr solidly brings up the rear as Constable MacDonald, while gleefully doubling as Mrs Tromleyton.
By Nick Le Mesurier