The Derby Telegraph

Lynne Brighouse

"I've been so lucky with the acting roles I've had over the years but I came to realise that the only way to get the best opportunities on stage is to form my own theatre company," Warwick Davis explained to an appreciative Derby audience, following his first performance of the farcical comedy, See How They Run in the city.

The tour is the culmination of a dream long held by Davis and, in launching his own Reduced Height Theatre Company, the actor also hopes to open up the field for his equally small colleagues to spread their wings.

It is an opportunity that all nine cast members embraced with gusto. With Davis in the director's seat, the gentle-humoured but frantic 1940s comedy whipped along at a fair old pace, carrying the audience along with it. Farces naturally lend themselves to actors leaning in towards a caricature of the characters they play and, across the board, this was tipped to hit just the right balance.

Rachel Denning was highly likable and believable as Penelope, the controversial and high-spirited wife of the local vicar, Lionel Toop. However, Penelope's theatrical past and modern ways inevitably ruffle the feathers of local parishioners and a strong rivalry with the prim and proper Miss Skillon, energetically played by Francesca Papagno, soon becomes apparent. Both women vie for the Rev Toop's approval and Davis provides a fitting counterpoint as the long-suffering vicar who is simply aiming for a quiet life.

Add into the mix the untimely arrival of a bishop, a second vicar, a Lance Corporal who needs a disguise, an escaped and armed German soldier (who also needs a disguise) plus three spare suits belonging to the vicar and you have the perfect recipe for confusion.

The laughs come thick and fast. Davis astutely resists the temptation to use the actors' reduced height for additional humour – realising that the script offers enough rich gems of its own. He allows the cast to use their natural acting talents and perfect timing to hone the comedy of this well-loved classic and the result is an enjoyable and likable romp.

Everyone turns in a strong performance but Francesca Mills steals the show with her lively portrayal of Ida the maid. Her chirpy outbursts, coupled with exaggerated facial expressions and movements were highly-engaging and guaranteed to bring a smile to everyone's face.