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Silchester Players - See How They Run!

13th to 14th and 20th to 21st May 2011.

From Chris Horton.

Feathers have been ruffled in Merton-cum-Middlewick (a small village in rural England). Miss Skillon is not happy – she’s done the Church pulpit flowers for as long as anyone can remember. Now flighty wife of the vicar, Penelope Toop, has upset matters and done the job herself. Not only that but she’s also taken to wearing trousers, waving and saying yoo-hoo to soldiers. This is unheard of behaviour for a vicar’s wife in 1942.

And so the scene is set for a battle between frigid Miss Skillon and breezy Mrs Toop. Miss Skillon is convinced Mrs Toop is having an affair and attempts to expose her. Add an escaped German prisoner, capers in the garden, a chase through the house, five vicars and you have the ingredients for a very complicated and extremely funny farce.

The success of such an intricate plot depends on the physical agility and spot on timing of the actors. The Silchester Players achieved this magnificently. James Hellem as Rev Toop was seriously good and Sarah Oliver played his wife with haughty perfection.  Even though you could anticipate what was going to happen, it made it even more funny and satisfying when it actually did. There were some sublime moments such as Nick Lock’s baffled expression (just brilliant) while accepting an invisible drink; Caroline Martin was hilarious as the originally frigid but eventually sozzled Miss Skillon. Everyone, Clive Solomons, Stephen Bibby especially and Keith Graham, attacked their roles with energy and power. Alan Moorhouse had some of the funniest facial expressions I have ever seen. Alex Ansell was super as Ida the mischievous maid.

The set – cleverly designed including French doors, stairs and under-stairs cubby hole – allowed frantic chases and capitalised on the absurdity of the plot. It was beautifully decorated by Kevin Belcher. Tim Oliver’s production and direction was extremely impressive and the cast clearly enjoyed themselves as much as the first night audience on this very pleasurable evening.


Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Capturing that wartime spirit

Silchester Players: See How They Run, at Silchester Village Hall. Friday, May 13, Saturday, May 14, Friday, May 20 and Saturday, May 21

Philip King wrote many light comedies during his career, but the wartime setting of See How They Run gives the play an interesting twist. Silchester Players made the most of this opportunity last week, piling on the atmosphere with special air-raid announcements, suitably attired front-of-house staff in the 'NAAFI canteen', and wartime posters in the programme, not to mention a very authentic looking set.

Tim Oliver's cast threw themselves enthusiastically into the enjoyable romp and - despite a few first-night prompts - the pace was lively throughout. At the centre of this unlikely tale of vicars and bishops, mistaken identity, escaped German prisoners and indignant parishioners, Sarah Oliver gave a superb performance as Penelope Toop, former actress and slightly outrageous wife of the somewhat less worldly Rev Lionel Toop (nicely played by James Hellem).

When Penelope's old friend and fellow actor Clive Winton (a wonderfully expressive performance from Alan Moorhouse) turns up unexpectedly, the two decide to go out to see a play, little knowing that a stream of other visitors - the Bishop of Lax (played in exasperated Father Ted style by Stephen Bibby), an armed Gorman escapee (Clive Solomons) and the Rev Arthur Humphrey (Nick Lock) - are about to turn vicarage life upside down. Meanwhile the straight-laced village busy-body Miss Skillion (a fabulous cameo from Caroline Martin) discovers the cooking sherry, leaving maid Ida (Alex Ansell) to clear up the pieces. Alex captured the maid's impish manner perfectly; she just needed to slow down a little to make the lines easier to catch. Eventually Sergeant Towers (Keith Graham) arrives to establish everyone's identity and restore sanity to the Merton-cum-Middlewick vicarage.

This was a very lively and a delightfully atmospheric production from the players.