As the brainchild of TV and film veteran Warwick Davis, the Reduced Height Theatre Company has landed at the Richmond Theatre proving that even though the company may be petite in height, their energy is certainly not in short supply.
See How They Run was written by Philip King in 1944, and played in the West End the same year that World War Two ended. Designed to keep British troops’ morale high, just as five years of conflict was coming to an end, the hilarious farce provided a welcome burst of laughter to those in London.
What prompted Davis, founder and producer of the company, into putting on the show he says, was that actors of reduced height never have quite the same acting opportunities as others. This 60-year-old play is the perfect tonic for them all; it showcases their talents brilliantly, and yet there is never humour to be found in the fact that the company are all short actors.
The set, designed by Barney George, has been scaled to suit the average height of the cast (4ft 2inches – Davis being the shortest of them all) and it shows the living room of Reverend Lionel Toop (Davis) and his wife, Penelope. As a typical British farce, reverends, maids, German soldiers and retired actors all play a part in this mayhem of mistaken identities and timely mishaps.
Rachel Denning as Penelope takes the majority of the show on her shoulders, embracing the much-loved play’s words and delivering with brilliant comic timing. Her pairing with Phil Holden whilst they reminisce about bygone days as actors is a treat. Jamie John, Jon Key and Francesca Papagno all contribute hilarious performances to the show’s mayhem, as they desperately cling to their sanity, but Francesca Mills should especially be applauded for her comic timing, and her characterisation of Ida the Maid, quite possibly stealing the show.
Veterans of the business, Raymond Griffiths, Peter Bonner and of course, Warwick Davis, contribute some finely tuned acts, regularly having the audience in stitches with their melodramatic performances.
Directed by Eric Potts, the show has a boundless energy from start to finish, and, in a theatre style notoriously difficult to get right, it hits all the high notes.
Whilst flicking through the performers’ profiles, I couldn’t help but notice the breadth of their professional roles; most including dwarves in pantos, Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, and goblins in the Harry Potter film franchise. But what the Reduced Height Company have shown is that it shouldn’t be restricted to roles because of its stature, but rather be thrust into the limelight a bit more, because it can most definitely hold their own.
See How They Run is playing at the Richmond Theatre until 29 March. For more information and tickets see the ATG website.