See How They Run
By Philip King
13 - 18 September, 2010
Mrs Toop reliving old acting scene
Miss Skillon gets friendly with Rev. Toop
Escaping German prisoner needs some clothes
Mrs Toop is persuaded to lie about husband
The play is set in 1943 in the living room of the Vicarage of Merton-cum-Middlewick. Penelope Toop is a former actress and now the wife of the local vicar. Miss Skillon, a churchgoer of the parish, arrives to gossip with the vicar and to complain about the latest ‘outrages’ that Penelope has caused. Rumours fly and complications multiply for the vicar’s wife. Add in Ida the Cockney maid, an old friend of Penelope’s, Lance-Corporal Clive Winton, an escaping German prisoner, the Bishop of Lax, people pretending to be who they are not, knockabouts, drunks, and a very well-trained dog and a frantic farce is assured.
Hot on the heels of ‘Dad’s Army’ our first play of the season See How They Run is also
set during the Second World War, 1943 to be precise and is a typically British farce.
The definition of a farce according to the Collins English Dictionary is “a play meant
only to excite laughter; an absurd and futile proceeding”.
Set in the delightful sounding village of Merton-cum- Middlewick, there are vicars, a bishop, an escaped POW, several mistaken identities and a mad chase round the vicarage grounds, in fact all the elements needed for a good farce.
Philip King wrote the first act in 1942 under the title Moon Madness, with the final act being completed in 1943. It was first staged by Henry Kendall at the Peterborough Rep in 1944 prior to touring as an entertainment for the troops.
In December 1944 it was re-cast and re-staged by Henry Kendall and presented to Jack de Leon at his Q Theatre, close to Kew Bridge. The cast included Joan Hickson (a young actress new to comedy) playing the maid Ida, and starred Beryl Mason and George Gee as Penelope and Clive. It then transferred to the Comedy Theatre in January 1945 opening to rave reviews.
King himself wrote of the first night performance ‘By the Grace of God the play went like a bomb - even three ‘doodle bugs’ dropped during the performance and no one left the theatre until the play was over, but George Gee was heard to complain that all three went off just as he was speaking his funniest lines’.
I am not expecting any ‘doodle bugs’ during our performances but I am hoping, thanks to an excellent cast and crew, that it will still go like a bomb.