Artsbeat - Derby

It was a case of the women stealing the show at Derby Theatre last night. In the comedy chaos that is See How They Run it is the irreverent vicar’s wife, the cheeky maid and pompous spinster who deserve the most plaudits.

The whole cast operated with a boundless energy from start to finish to ensure that the audience were treated to a show with all the elements of a good farce – mayhem, mistaken identity and mishaps a plenty – but it was the three girls who excelled.

Rachel Denning as The Rev Lionel Toop’s wife Penelope is hardly off the stage and is every inch the naughty-but-nice former actress, inadvertently shocking the middleclass community with her antics.

Francesca Papagno is a very convincing Miss Skillon and has the middle-aged busybody character off to a tee (so much so I did a double take when I saw her picture in the programme this morning). Her drunken shenanigans on the sofa are a joy.

If these two performances were great then that of Francesca Mills as Ida the Maid can only be described as fantastic. The stage became electrified every time she stepped on to it and her comic timing is impeccable. She is a complete hoot and had the audience in stitches from her opening lines to her final bow.

Philip King’s classic was written during the dark days of the Second World War to offer some light relief to theatregoers. It has been brought to Derby Theatre by film and TV star Warwick Davis with his newly-formed Reduced Height Theatre Company. He aims to broaden the horizon of theatrical opportunities for short actors by presenting popular plays with reduced-height sets. The living room set for See How They Run was designed by Barney George and has been scaled to suit the average height of the cast which is 4ft 2inches.

Warwick himself plays Rev Lionel Toop and as with the other veterans of the industry – Phil Holden as Lance Corporal Clive Winton Raymond Griffiths, as the intruder and Peter Bonner as Sergeant Towers – gives the polished professional performance you would expect. Adding to the riotous confusion and hilarity on the stage were Jamie John as The Rev Arthur Humphrey and Jon Key as The Bishop of Lax.

The show was directed by Eric Potts and lighting was by Bob Bustance.