British Theatre Guide - Derby

Steve Orme

Warwick Davis, the small man with huge talent, is living a dream. After being in show business for 33 years, he wanted to move his career in a different direction by acting in a traditional play. When the opportunities didn’t come up, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

That was how the Reduced Height Theatre Company was formed and Davis, actor, talent agency founder and television presenter, became a theatre producer.

The Reduced Height Theatre Company celebrates the talents of actors who are under four feet tall. Its first presentation is Philip King’s 1945 farce See How They Run which is now more than halfway through a three-month tour.

Davis, self-deprecating and first in the queue to make a joke about his height, is eager for an audience to concentrate on the cast’s abilities. That’s why the set is scaled down and deflects from the actors’ size.

By the end of the evening, you tend to agree with Davis that size doesn’t matter. The cast are totally immersed in the production and it’s no small feat that the evening is a success.

This is despite the fact that See How They Run is now a little bit creaky and parts of it are highly predictable.

The wartime comedy features a country vicar, Lionel Toop, who is married to Penelope, a former actress and niece of the Bishop. Her determination to remain a human being as well as a vicar’s wife doesn’t please some villagers who believe someone in her position should behave more decorously.

The arrival of the Bishop along with Penelope’s acting friend Clive who is now in the army, Reverend Humphrey who is due to take the following day’s Harvest Festival service and an escaped German prisoner-of-war leads to mistaken identities, a cupboard being used as a hiding place and alcohol being consumed not just for medicinal purposes.

Davis says the secrets of making farce work are timing, physicality and larger-than-life performances. That’s why this version of See How They Run works.

The show is directed by Eric Potts, a prolific writer and actor who is a panto veteran. He has got the timing spot-on; the action is played out at a tremendous pace which heightens the comedy.

Physicality is in great evidence as the actors charge up and down stairs, through the kitchen and into the garden of Barney George’s quaint set.

Larger-than-life performances are evident without being overbearing. The most obvious is Francesca Mills as Ida the maid, a delightful interpretation by a young lady who has a range of moves and expressions which endear her greatly to the audience. Her performance is completely over-the-top yet it doesn’t look out of place in this genre.

As for Davis, he gives a commendable display; although he’s producer and star he doesn’t hog the limelight and is content for others to have the funniest lines.

The whole cast rise to the challenge of being given the opportunity to demonstrate their talents. It would be interesting to see them next in something other than a farce.

If you get the chance to See How They Run, take it—it will have only a short run in your neighbourhood. You won’t get any half-price tickets but at the end of the evening you won’t feel short-changed by the Reduced Height Theatre Company.