It is well documented how uncomplaining and steadfast our neighbours were during the second World War and in particular during the four months of the battle of Britain when the imminent threat of invasion was very real. In the midst of the daily upheaval of normal life, the bombings, rationing, the British people went on with their lives. Work went on, art was created, plays were written and life carried on. One of those plays was ‘See How they Run’ by Philip King, an actor and for the duration of the war a aircraft mechanic in the RAF.
See How They Run is not about war. It is about etiquette, the values of a nation at that particular time and their sense of proper behaviour. It’s about vicars and their tribulations. And above all it’s about misunderstandings.
Deriving it’s name from the nursery rhyme the play is set in a rural vicarage, a classic English farce with tense comic situations, intense humour, mistaken identities, vicars and more vicars.
Justin Irwin played the part of the slightly dotty vicar The Rev Lionel Toop, with a mixture of upper class conservatism and eccentricity due to his lack of understanding of what was happening around him. His wife, Penelope, was played by Carrie Kavanagh as the American-raised actress who returned to her birth home in rural England where her blatant frankness and devil-may-care outlook runs in total contradiction to what is expected of the vicars wife. Penelope’s perceived short comings are most infuriating to her nemesis, Miss Skillon, played by Gobnaith Long. Miss Long gave Skillon’s uppity outrage a touch of jealousy and resentment to put the house into hilarious chaos. Eleanor O’Dwyer created a perfect foil to Skillon. Her Ida the maid showed low-brow servitude balanced with high-brow intelligence. It was her commentary and all-knowing looks and facial expressions that gave much of the play its constant humorous life. Into this tranquil, if erratic, household enters a series of vicars. Lance-Corporal Clive Winton, played by first time thespian John O’Gorman, arrives to visit Penelope, his former stage partner. Their plan to take in a show in a nearby town leads him to impersonate an expected visiting vicar. Then the Bishop of Lax, played by Michael John O’Dwyer, who happens to be Penelope’s uncle, arrives unexpectedly a day early, carrying a large amount of church authority and a need to protect his niece like a father. In time, the real expected vicar, Arthur Humphrey (John Hally) arrives. Glen Fahey plays The Intruder, an escaped German prisoner of war who manages to relieve Rev Toop of his priestly garb, converting himself into a vicar imposter. And into this cauldron of mistaken identities, Sergeant Towers played by Robert White arrives to hunt down the prisoner. Four vicars, a bishop, an archetypal sergeant major, and three resigned women, one drunk, one suspicious, and one who knew the truth but couldn’t say anything and you have the ingredients for one of the funniest show you are ever likely to see. And that’s exactly what those who attended Bru Boru last weekend got from this talented group. Producer Gail O’Keeffe, no stranger to Cashel audiences having trod the boards on many occasions, had her first outing from the other side of the curtain.