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A CurtainUp London Review
See How They Run
See How They Run is a collector's item, a genuine theatrical time warp event where people speak with that standard version of English adopted by the BBC and called "received pronunciation." It is true that you can hear every word! Set in an English country vicarage during wartime, this farce's plot lines are rather silly and convoluted. There is a nosy, interfering spinster, a flighty vicar's wife, a humourless bishop, a saucy maid, an escaped goose-stepping German prisoner and several others, some of whom adopt clerical garb to create confusion. The designer has gone to town, not so much in the traditional country house set, but with sandbags placed everywhere in the theatre in case of our being caught in the Blitz rather than in remembrance of the anniversary of more recent bombing.
With Douglas Hodge (the actor currently playing Titus Andronicus at The Globe) directing See How They Run is a faithful reproduction of the original farce. The performances are adept and polished even if their vehicle chassis is a bit rusty. The sozzled spinster is hung out to dry in a cupboard after she self medicates with the brandy bottle. Julie Legrand is outstanding as the rubber legged church helper and flower arranger who resents the vicar's wife, a former actress, also nicely played by Nancy Carroll. I enjoyed Nicholas Blane's little rotund vicar who stumbles into this madhouse in the Third Act. The famous line comes from the wife's uncle, Tim Pigott-Smith's indignant bishop, "Sergeant arrest most of these vicars!"
Though the third act was pacier than the first two, my taste does not have enough wit to counteract the horseplay of people chasing each other around, one in his underwear. Set piece jokes like Miss Skillon's sexual misunderstanding on seeing Penelope and Clive (Jo Stone-Fewings) re-enact their parts in NoŽl Coward's Private Lives seem more contrived than spontaneous. It may be a play about a lost England, a rural romp but it doesn't provide enough escapism. I think reducing tickets to wartime prices may be the only way to get it to run.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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