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See How They Run (York)

Daniel Meyers find an "intricately constructed" farce at York Theatre Royal.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Debagged vicar. Check. Uptight spinster. Check. Lusty youngsters and fusty oldsters. Check. More fainting females than a One Direction concert. Check. Philip King's World War II set, See How They Run has everything you would expect from a 1940's farce. And then some.

To try and explain the plot here would not only require a significantly higher word count than I'm allowed, but would also deprive future audiences of the joy of watching the rapid unravelling of these quintessentially British characters and their seemingly ordered Home Counties lives.

Ashley Christmas as Miss Skillon and Philip Mansfield as Rev. Humphrey.
©Karl Andre Photography

For some, farce can be a frustrating experience. Many were the times I just wanted to stand up and scream an end to the constant misunderstandings and improbable mistaken identities, but these, of course, are the lifeblood of this production and of farce in general. To get the most out of See How They Run, it's advisable to leave your cynicism and disbelief at the door – at the risk of it being tripped over by a hapless vicar – and just revel in the refreshing experience of watching a play which has no agenda other than to make us laugh.

It's a demanding play for the cast; every part requires great physical stamina and comic timing and, on the whole, every member is up to the task. Lucy Phelps in particular attacks the role of Ida the Maid with total commitment and is rewarded with many of the big laughs.

Juliet Forster's direction is tight and breathless and Barney George's set is both aesthetically twee and structurally robust, benefitting from several crucially well-hung doors.

It may lack the edge and level of inventiveness of superior examples of the form, like One Man, Two Guvnors, but behind the swinging doors and hysteria lurks a deceptively intricately constructed piece and above all else, a rollicking jolly caper.


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