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See How They Run – Opera House, Manchester

Writer: Philip King

Director: Eric Potts

Reviewer: Brian Gorman

Philip King’s typically English farce seems an ideal choice as the debut production for Warwick Davis’ Reduced Height Theatre Company.

The star of TV’s Life’s Too Short, and several Star Wars movies, has long dreamt of acting in regular plays on stage, yet opportunities have been severely limited for him. Society’s apparent inability to deal with anybody who isn’t of a regular shape and size has caused many a talented performer to simply give up their dreams, and accept often demeaning parts as a leprechaun, circus dwarf, or any number of rôles where their size and body shape is used for easy laughs and low brow entertainment. Thankfully, this is a company who are seeking to prove that size really does not matter.

Plot-wise, See How They Run is a simple comedy of numerous errors, where we have a hapless country vicars unexciting life suddenly thrown into chaos with several cases of mistaken identity, an escaped German P.O.W., and the visit of a formidable Senior Bishop. Sharply written, and with a host of well-drawn characters, the script gave every member of the cast some inspiring one-liners, and no end of classic physical comedy moments.

Director Eric Potts has created a dazzling piece of first class entertainment played at breakneck speed by a cast who simply radiated energy and vitality. Davis plays the central rôle of mild-mannered country vicar Lionel Toop with a natural charisma and superb comic timing, and he is perfectly complemented by a vivacious Rachel Denning as his feisty, fun-loving wife Penelope. Francesca Mills is dynamite as the perpetually harassed maid, Ida, and her boundless energy, and Barbara Windsor cackle threatened to steal every scene she was in.

Francesca Papagno excelled as the drunken old maid, Miss Skillon, while Jon Key had the audience in stitches as the permanently bewildered Bishop of Lax. Raymond Griffiths was excellent as the desperate German escapee, with a great stage presence and superb menace. Jamie John as the ever-so-camp Reverend Humphrey was an entertaining hybrid of Hugh Grant, Derek Nimmo, and Morrissey. Phil Holden supplied the square-jawed hero, and object of Ida’s affections, in the shape of Lance-Corporal Clive Winton, with Peter Bonner almost stealing the show as the no-nonsense Sergeant Towers, when arriving in the final scene to uncover the German P.O.W. (at this point masquerading as one of several vicars in the house).

Barney George’s wartime vicarage set was scaled down to accommodate the actors with an average height of 4ft 2, which played some strange tricks on the eyes. While thoroughly enjoying this production, I did find that I was simultaneously thinking about the deeper implications of what I was experiencing. Small actors in a world designed to accommodate them, playing the comedy of the character, and not the physical limitations.

Receiving a tremendous reception from a delighted audience, Warwick Davis took a few minutes after the curtain call to thank us for supporting his new company, and for giving little people a chance to do something that did not always depend upon their size. It was heartfelt, and wonderfully delivered. I will be intrigued to see what future productions this fascinating new company delivers.

Photo: Paul Clapp | Runs until Sat 3rd May

 

Writer: Philip King Director: Eric Potts Reviewer: Brian Gorman Philip King’s typically English farce seems an ideal choice as the debut production for Warwick Davis’ Reduced Height Theatre Company. The star of TV’s Life’s Too Short, and several Star Wars movies, has long dreamt of acting in regular plays on stage, yet opportunities have been severely limited for him. Society’s apparent inability to deal with anybody who isn’t of a regular shape and size has caused many a talented performer to simply give up their dreams, and accept often demeaning parts as a leprechaun, circus dwarf, or any number of…

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