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 The Theatreguide.London Review

See How They Run
Duchess Theatre       Summer-Autumn 2006

Philip King's 1944 farce is a throwback to more innocent days when all West End audiences wanted for their tickets (priced in shillings rather than pounds) was two hours of slightly naughty fun.

If that's all you want - about as many laughs as you'd get in an evening of really good TV sitcoms, and about as forgettable - then you'll get your money's worth here, even at 21st century prices.

For innocent reasons that make sense at the time, a vicar's wife dresses a friend in one of her husband's suits and collars, only to have the gossipy village spinster mistake him for the vicar in what seems like a compromising situation. Meanwhile, an escaped German POW steals another of the vicar's suits.

Factor in a visiting clergyman (If you're keeping count, we now have four people dressed as vicars), the bishop who doesn't know who's who, and that gossip whose shock has gotten her drunk on the cooking sherry, and you've got enough confusion and frantic running about to generate a good quota of laughs.

Douglas Hodge directs with full appreciation of the way farce must move with such snowballing speed that we don't have time to think and yet still have its own internal logic and inevitability. If the cast are not all instinctive farceurs, they do work admirably at keeping the energy level high.

You'll particularly enjoy Tim Pigott-Smith, taking a holiday from playing his usual sneering villains to delight us as the totally befuddled bishop; Julie Legrand as the spinster who keeps finding herself thrust into a cupboard; and Natalie Grady as the obligatory wisecracking maid.

I will defy you to remember the plot or anything you laughed at three days later. But if you give yourself to the play and are not overly demanding, you'll enjoy yourself at the time.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of See How They Run - Duchess  Theatre 2006
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