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Review: The Ladykillers Of Humber Doucy Lane, by Harry Long, Eastern Angles and Shanty Theatre Company, Sir John Mills Theatre until January 6; Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge from January 9-20.

PUBLISHED: 11:05 11 December 2017

Emma Barclay as Binkie the landlady in the Eastern Angles Christmas show The Ladykillers of Humber Doucy Lane. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Emma Barclay as Binkie the landlady in the Eastern Angles Christmas show The Ladykillers of Humber Doucy Lane. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Mike Kwasniak Photography, 2017 - www.mikekwasniak.co.uk

The Ladykillers is one of British cinema’s golden classics – an Ealing comedy that appears to be rosy on the outside but as soon as you dig beneath the surface its humour is as black as coal. This Christmas Eastern Angles and Shanty Theatre have decided to give this dark caper movie a modern and a local make-over.

Todd Heppenstall and Emma Barclay in the Eastern Angles Christmas show The Ladykillers of Humber Doucy Lane. Photo: Mike Kwasniak Todd Heppenstall and Emma Barclay in the Eastern Angles Christmas show The Ladykillers of Humber Doucy Lane. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

It transfers to the stage very well, aided by some first-rate characterisation and some wonderfully absurd storytelling. Director Laura Keefe keeps things swift and surreal as the action jumps from Norwich Prison to Ipswich police station to a theatrical boarding house in Humber Doucy Lane.

A gang of overly-ambitious housebreakers have managed to escape from Norwich Prison (this is probably their most successful exploit in their woe-begotten careers) and are planning one last big job before they go their separate ways. They plan to impersonate a troupe of touring actors staging a performance of The Importance of Being Earnest and while the locals are being entertained, the villains, not on stage, will relieve their unwitting dupes of valuable knick-knacks.

However, they had not expected to come up against their theatrical landlady Binkie Blaine, a moral crusader with a Michael Ball fixation and a one-woman neighbourhood watch scheme. Fortunately, she is quite gullible and the plan goes ahead but fans of the film will know that it is unwise to bet against a little old lady with a nose for crime.

Daniel Copeland as the heavy Scar Feet in the Eastern Angles Christmas show The Ladykillers of Humber Doucy Lane. Photo: Mike Kwasniak Daniel Copeland as the heavy Scar Feet in the Eastern Angles Christmas show The Ladykillers of Humber Doucy Lane. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Emma Barclay steals the show in a dual role as the aged Binkie and the youthful Cow Crusher, the would-be brains of the criminal gang. Her characterisation and quick-change switching between roles is very impressive and director Laura Keefe’s solution as to what to do to replace Emma when she is playing Binkie is inspired.

Todd Heppenstall as gang leader Left Eye and Daniel Copeland as the less-than-bright heavy Scar Feet also both impress – both as gang members and as joke-telling members of the local constabulary.

Eastern Angles have always specialised in genre spoofs – poking fun at Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Hammer Horror and sci-fi B movies, now it’s clear they can have fun with comedy classics as well.

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