REVIEW: See How They Run by Philip King
Written in 1943, and set in the war, See How They Run, was designed to entertain the troops and maintain morale. It also happened to be one of the first plays I watched, over forty-five years ago, and contributed to my interest and involvement in theatre. When first performed, it was an immediate success, but as a farce very much of its time, would it entertain seventy-five years later?
It was a good start with Frank Jenks’ set design receiving a round of applause as the lights came up on a well-proportioned and attractive vicarage. Its residents, Penelepe Toop (Claire Bolt) and husband, the Reverend Lionel Toop (Alan Haynes) convinced us that they were real people in a bizarre situation. Lines were delivered with timing and conviction, creating an enjoyable mix of sophistication and modernity on her part, and innocence and seriousness on his. Also living in at the vicarage, was their maid, Ida (Kim Howell) who observes, comments, and participates in the antics. Kim Howell delivered an excellent characterisation of the role, making all her gags count, and being a reassuring presence around which everything else swirled insanely.
The arrival of the dashing Clive Winton triggers the chaos and was a marvellous Stables debut for Mike Bendell who took on the role. Terence Hattemore was the Bishop of Lax, brought to life with a warm-hearted pomposity and determination to uncover what was happening; his involvement in the chase scene was to great comic effect. Franck Hoedemaker was an escaping German officer masquerading as yet another clergyman and Dan Palmer was the Reverend Arthur Humphrey, a role played with a nice touch of timid naivety. Liam Rowley as Sergeant Towers looked every inch the army man and Megan Skinner, was Miss Skillon, the suitably prim, and then unsuitably drunk, parish busy body.
Farce is not easy to master but the company knew what was required. Pace and mayhem accelerated as the story unfolded, and there were many memorable moments, especially in the second and third acts, that captured the essence of farce, and were clearly enjoyed by the audience. Congratulations to the Director, Jenny Wiles, for a very successful start to the Stables’ 60th Anniversary celebrations. Credit also to the wardrobe department (Gill Jenks) for the array of costumes, and for securing a job lot of liturgical dog collars! Seventy-five years on the play does still make people laugh.