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Five Reasons To See... See How They Run

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Alastair Whatley is the artistic director of Original Theatre Company, founded in 2004. This new touring production, directed by Christopher Harper, is being mounted in association with Eastbourne Theatres, South Hill Park and The Anvil, Basingstoke. It tours in repertoire from September with Twelfth Night, also directed by Whatley. Both productions have the same cast.

1. It’s the funniest play ever written...
That’s a rather grand statement, but Philip King’s 1944 hit farce has more than survived the passing of time. It provokes the most extreme reactions from audiences – even just reading it around the table on the first day of rehearsals it had the entire company convulsing in laughter.

Without any doubt it keeps the audience bubbling on the verge of outright hilarity, audience members frequently come out clutching their sides in the pain of having laughed almost consistently for two hours. And there are not many plays that can make that claim.

2. It’s performed by a truly wonderful cast.
We spent over four months searching for the perfect cast for this very technical, and very difficult play. Comedy and farce is an art unto itself and we have assembled a group of wonderful actors who from an early stage in rehearsals make the play live and breathe.

They are all investing the play with a real emotional life – spending the first week simply questioning every line of the play. It is absolutely crucial with farce to find the truth behind the extraordinary situations the characters find themselves in. The big pitfall is to start sending it all up with knowing glances to the audience.

The characters in See How They See Run all find themselves teetering on the brink of tragedy; it has to be absolutely real to them. It has been a joy to our have our cast approach this play with such commitment. It stars Arthur Bostrom as the Bishop of Lax, Siobhan O’Kelly as Penelope and Lucy Speed as Miss Skillon.

3. It’s a real period piece.
King wrote the play in the midst of the Second World War, in fact during one of its early performances the performance was interrupted by a bombing raid, but the audience were so enthralled they refused to leave!

The play features a couple of characters who like King himself were once actors, and the play is peppered with references not only to what the life of a touring actor in the 1940s was like, but also a wholly accurate portrayal of a wartime English village.

4. It’s more than ”just another farce”.
See How They Run is not only put together with the attention to detail of a fine Swiss watch, it has in rehearsal also revealed itself to be a play full of modern ideas and reflections on a society in the midst of massive social change.

From Penelope, the former actress shaking the vicarage and the village with her outrageous trousers and behaviour to the German soldier who King refers to only as “The Man” – thereby managing to avoid stereotyping a character that could have so easily have been sent up as the purely evil token Nazi. First and foremost it is a wonderfully constructed farce, but beating just below the surface lies a play that reveals the state of a nation in the midst of war, austerity and change.

5. There’s a real dog...
The Original Theatre Company has thus far never worked with animals, but this is all set to change as we welcome various dogs on board to fulfil one of King’s stage directions – which was surely written with one eye on Shakespeare’s “Exit pursued by a bear” in The Winter’s Tale.

Everyone has expected a touring production to forgo this particular demand, but we are determined to fulfil King’s vision. Its appearance will no doubt steal the show from all the actors – so its continued presence may not be guaranteed! Catch it while you can.


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