The Ladykillers, Headgate Theatre, Colchester.

Adapted From the 1955 Ealing comedy classic, Graham Lineham’s (Father Ted, The IT Crowd), superlative adaptation was a huge West End hit a few years ago, and has done well in regional theatre since.

It’s a hugely challenging play because of the intricate staging, (lovers of the film will remember rooftop chases, steam trains rattling the house and bodies falling onto moving trains travelling North), and Colchester Theatre Group’s production doesn’t fully overcome those challenges in such a small space as the Headgate. But director Amy Feeley is wonderfully inventive, and this is an ensemble that a comedy casting director would die for.

When Professor Marcus gathers his bank robbing allies in Mrs. Wilberforce’s crumbling home, he is planning the perfect robbery under the disguise of them being musicians rehearsing for a concert. Sadly for him, she cannot keep her nose out of his business, or his room, and the comedy increases as she inadvertently discovers the truth and thwarts their robbery. As Professor Marcus, Les Chisnall was a delight, hilarious but with the right amount of menace, perfectly bouncing off Anthea Halstead’s well pitched Mrs. Wilberforce. As dim but totally loveable One Round, Matthew Hankin was an absolute show stealing scream, a master class in comic timing. Aaron Bowater was excellent as Harry, hyped up on pills and nerves, and Peregrine Maturin-Baird once again proved his comic credentials with the violent hungry Pole Lois. Rod Green was a hilarious suppressed cross dressing Major Courtney and Brian Malone framed the play beautifully as Constable Macdonald.

Although the “swarm” of old ladies arriving for the concert wasn’t exactly a swarm, and the staging in the second half did begin to slow the pace down a little, this was an hilarious evening in the theatre, and had the audience rolling in the aisles! Challenge set and challenge met, it was also good to see some less well known faces in this sparkling production.