Ladykillers’ Clive on a classic crime caper of killer comedy

The Ladykillers

The Ladykillers - Credit: Archant

Clive Mantle has stepped out of Holby City and entered somewhere altogether shadier. Trading the caring profession for criminality, he tells ABIGAIL SALTMARSH about his role in the stage version of The Ladykillers.

It is hard to imagine gentle Clive Mantle in the guise of a lady killer but then when you recall the story is an uproarious comedy it all makes a little more sense.

Clive is, of course, best known for his role in BBC medical dramas Casualty and Holby City, for years playing consultant Mike Barrett.

A laid back and jovial actor, he loved playing a doctor in the long-running programme, is relishing the humour of The Ladykillers and also can't wait to come to Norfolk.

'I love Norwich — I have been there several times with different shows. It is a lovely place and the audience is always very appreciative,' he said.

'Norfolk as a whole is such a great part of the world too. I used to visit a lot when I was younger. I had a friend there and as teenagers we spent a lot of time in Hoveton tearing about on our bikes!'

The Ladykillers has been on the road for some time now and although the travel does take its toll, Clive is relishing every moment of it.

Most Read

'It is such fantastic fun — wonderful stuff. Wherever we go we are getting a great reaction. It is a show that makes a great evening out,' he enthuses.

'I only do plays that I really want to do and when I went to see it in the West End, and they asked me if I wanted to do it, I wanted to jump out of my seat and join them on the stage there and then.'

Originally a 1955 black and white Ealing comedy, starring Alec Guinness, the story has been adapted by Norwich-based writer Graham Linehan, who is best known as the writer behind television comedies Father Ted and The IT Crowd.

The Ladykillers tells the story of eccentric little old lady Mrs Wilberforce who lives alone with her parrot in a strange lopsided house in King's Cross. Her life is turned upside down by the arrival of Professor Marcus and his four friends, who between them make up the most unlikely group of criminals.

Planning the heist of a security van, they decide to use Mrs Wilberforce as cover and involve her unwittingly in the plot. Things do not go well and the Professor's plan starts to unravel in spectacular and hilarious fashion.

The show also stars a host of other famous faces. They include the likes of Cliff Parisi, who is best known for playing lovable rogue Minty in EastEnders, and Michele Dotrice, perhaps best known for her role as Betty, the long-suffering wife of Frank Spencer, played by Michael Crawford, in the BBC's highly successful series Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em.

'It is a great ensemble piece. There are five of us in the gang and then of course Mrs Wilberforce, played by Michelle,' says Clive. 'We are all enjoying everything about it, especially the illusions and special effects.'

While fans of the film will clearly be attracted to the production, Clive insists the show brings something new to the story for anyone who loves comedy.

'It has been given a whole new lease of life and there are a lot of belly laughs throughout,' he says.

'I love my character in particular. He is the world's worst con man. He was probably quite good as a young man but he has seen his best days now.

'It is interesting for me because at six foot five and a half inches I tend to play the more solid characters in anything I do but the Major is really rather fragile and weak.'

Clive, who has numerous television credits to his name, and has appeared in films such as Party, Party, Alien 3, Foreign Body and White Hunter–Black Heart, enjoys mixing stage and careen work. In 1984, he was nominated for an Olivier Award and was joint winner as Best Newcomer of the Plays and Players Award for his performance as Lennie in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men at The Mermaid Theatre, London.

'All you can ask as an actor is for variety,' he says. 'I loved doing Casualty - it was a wonderful opportunity for me – but stage and film work is great too.

'Casualty might not have been the most hilarious programme to work on but it was fun and it has given me such admiration for anyone who works for the NHS. They do such a wonderful job and 99.9 per cent of the time the service is so good.'

And he adds: 'But what was also nice about being on Casualty was working with the same people for so long – you don't get that with one-off programmes and films.

'Now, however, my stethoscope might have gone rusty but I do have a similar situation with The Ladykillers. It has been great to be part of such a super and fun team.'

t The Ladykillers, Norwich Theatre Royal, March 4-9, £23.50-£5.50, 01603 630000,