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See How They Run, The Opera House, Reviewed

Joan Davies enjoys the comedy reimagined by Warwick Davis and the actors of the Reduced Height Theatre Company

Written by . Published on April 30th 2014.


See How They Run, The Opera House, Reviewed
 

THE CLASSIC FARCE, See How They Run, is given a warm and punchy performance at the Opera House.

The star the audience has come to see is undoubtedly Warwick Davis but the rest of the cast are an equal match.

It is the first theatre company made up of entirely short actors – all in the cast are under four feet tall. Warwick Davis, the most successful short actor in Britain, used his success to found the company with the aim of offering a range of roles to some seriously talented actors.

See How They Run, written by Philip King towards the end of WW2 is highly entertaining. Recent revivals have demonstrated how easily we can take ourselves back to a time before crystal-meth reverends and acceptable pre-marital ‘relations’.

Built on stock characters: virginal gossipy spinsters, camp actors, cheeky maids and blustering bishops, the action soon becomes a tour-de-force of cupboard-hiding be-trousered vicars and apparently meaningless chases covered up by English middle-class good manners and tea, or eventually brandy.

See How They RunThe Reduced Height Theatre Company 

Francesca Mills, as Ida the maid, is consistently superb delivering a warm, endearing, and slightly scatty character whose speeding around the stage and through doors suggests hidden roller skates. Francesca Papagno, disguised with tweeds and a plum-in-the-mouth voice, makes the most of her scenes as a gossip and unintentional drunk.

There are strong performances too from Jamie John as a visiting vicar and Jon Key as The Bishop of Lax. Phil Holden is a delightful Lance Corporal Clive Winton, a former actor now in uniform, and Rachel Denning as a former actress and now unlikely vicar’s wife is a strong and entertaining presence.  Warwick Davis as Reverend Lionel Toop is a lynch-pin, with a wonderful resonant voice.

18723_FullWarwick Davis as Reverend Lionel Toop

Design and costumes reflect the 1940s setting and traditional presentation of drama of the period.

The audience has come to see Warwick Davis with his new company, the Reduced Height Theatre Company. It is the first theatre company made up of entirely short actors – all in the cast are under four feet tall. Warwick Davies, the most successful short actor in Britain, used his success to found the company with the aim of offering a range of roles to some seriously talented actors. He’s succeeded. The cast are strong indeed and a short speech, full of short, small jokes, given by Warwick at the curtain call drew a loud and committed applause for his venture. There’s no tokenism here and cast and audience were delighted at the opportunity to see such fine actors in these roles.

There are two ways to play farce.

One way is to underplay it in the early stages, treating everything as natural and behaving with impeccable manners until chaos is unleashed. That’s my preferred option. The other way, popular with many, is to play for laughs from the start, pointing up potentialities and exaggerating the double entendres. As Eric Potts of local pantomime fame directs this production, it will be no surprise to see the second strategy employed.  The danger here is that it can become rather laboured and just appear silly and repetitive. But the laughs are for real in the second act.

This is Warwick’s first venture as a theatre producer and he says, “The formation of The Reduced Height Theatre Company is a dream realised for me. As a short actor, I am not always afforded the same professional opportunities as my taller colleagues. This new venture will tip the balance in favour of myself and the other talented short actors in the UK. In these times of equality and diversity, this will be a unique, bold and empowering journey.”

Objective, so far, achieved. Thanks Warwick.

See How They Run, Tuesday 29 April – Saturday 3 May

Opera House Manchester

 

Opera HouseOpera House


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