The Good Review

Clare Snape

"What would you do with a revolver tickling your ribs?"

Warwick Davis set up The Reduced Height Theatre Company to give himself and other short actors, acting opportunities that might otherwise never come their way and to tap into the wealth of talent in the short actor community; and what a treat for the audience!

Making their debut with See How They Run the company already has a well-established feel about it; and on the evidence of this production, I can’t wait to see what they do next!

Philip King’s ‘See How They Run’ was first performed in 1944. It is widely regarded as one of the best British farces and it is easy to see why. The script skips along at one heck of a pace, giving the actors plenty to play with, including some wonderful almost risqué innuendo, it is something of a challenge to keep up with the frantic pace – a challenge which all the cast rise to without exception. When I spoke to Warwick Davis a few weeks ago, he told me that the company had learnt very early on in rehearsal that to play farce well requires a great deal of accuracy and precision; and they worked very hard at that. Warwick thought they had cracked it. I am pleased to say that I agree.

In wartime Britain, theatre was viewed as having a vital part in keeping up morale and what better way to keep the pecker up than to sit back and enjoy a good old fashioned romp. This play has proved to be an inspired choice for The Reduced Height Theatre Company’s first outing. Director Eric Potts, himself an experienced actor in farce, obviously appreciates the attention to detail required to make farce work and here he has done a fantastic job with his cast.

The action of the play takes place one night in the vicarage of the village of Merton-cum-Middlewick where Reverend Lionel Toop (Warwick Davis) lives happily with his wife and former actress Penelope (Rachel Denning). The fact that the Reverend has married an actress has not gone unnoticed in the village, not least of all by Churchgoer and local busybody Miss Skillon (Francesca Papagno). When Miss Skillon is unable to leave the vicarage due to the tyre on her bike becoming mysteriously punctured, she becomes embroiled, as do the rest of the cast, in a case of mistaken identity involving vicars, soldiers, maids and alcohol! Hilarity ensues as they say!

It is fair to say that the actors literally throw themselves into their roles, each bringing excellent characterisation to their parts, with neat individual touches and bits of business. Everything is played at an amazing pace with brilliant comic timing and high energy. It made me tired just watching the way the cast raced around the stage. The setting in the vicarage is perfect with swing doors and stairs used almost like props and a conveniently positioned cupboard used to great comic effect. The whole performance is very slick and must have taken a lot of dedication from cast and director to get it right – a credit to them all.

The person who really shone for me was Francesca Mills as Ida the Cockney Maid, who clearly doesn’t know her place! She delivers a bravura performance and had me crying with laughter at times. Complete with machine-gun laugh, she lights up the stage every time she comes on – pure comedy gold and what a talent.

Phil Holden, Raymond Griffiths, Jon Key, Jamie John and Peter Bonner make up the rest of the hugely talented cast but are certainly not there to make up the numbers. Even the actors with less to do have their chance to shine and all contribute to the overall sense of fun and enjoyment. So if you want a feel good evening at the theatre, this play is certainly the one for you – if you can keep up with the pace that is!