Laughs at a rollicking gallop

See How They Run

Belgrade Theatre

****

PICTURE the scene - the living room of an old vicarage which cockney Ida the maid, (Francesca Mills) kicks off by cleaning.

This is the traditional setting for this traditional and great classic British farce of mistaken identity, lots of clerics, and inexplicable exposure of underwear.

We start with retired actress Penelope Toop (Rachel Denning), eccentric wife to main character Rev Lionel Toop (Warwick Davis), practising her scales in the room above and does she need to!

Visitor Clive Winton (Phil Holden), her old actor buddy and she are rehearsing the hilarious fight scene from Noel Coward’s Private Lives but unfortunately stalwart (and scold) of the county set Miss Skillon (Francesca Papagno) has arrived unannounced and furious in the vicarage but has been knocked unconscious by a hefty blow from Clive. She might have arrived steaming with anger but steaming of a different sort is the outcome! Efforts to revive her with copious amount s of cooking sherry by Ida prove misguided so she’s defly deposited in the broom cupboard, an architectural feature that proves its worth throughout the play!.

An intruder, a German prisoner of war (Raymond Griffiths) disguises himself as a vicar in Toop’s robes, leaving him in his underwear for the rest of the play. In the end Sergeant Major Towers (Peter Bonner) arrives to search for his spy to discover half the cast dressed as bickering vicars, and some undressed, and the rest either drunk and incapable or in the broom cupboard.

If you are just going to see the comic genius that is Warwick Davis, you are in danger of missing a vast amount of talent on the rest of the stage. However, it has to be said that Ida the maid stole the show despite the vamping eccentricities of Penelope Toop.

So this new company, Reduced Height Theatre Company, set up by Warwick Davis to showcase the talents of a neglected range of talents, has done us a good turn here and I for one am delighted that he did. Here’s a revival of a wonderful play, by Philip King and directed by Eric Potts, told from a new perspective with oodles of laugh-out loud hilarity. A scorcher! To 08-03-14

Jane Howard

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