See How They Run (the classic British farce by Philip King),is Reduced Height Theatre Company’s first production and a bit of a dream come true for you. How’s it all been going?
It’s been going really, really, well. I’m delighted with the show and with the response that we’ve been getting from audiences. They absolutely love the show and they all say how good an evening they’ve had in the theatre. It’s just one of those good old laugh-out-loud shows.
How excited were you on that first performance?
Well I was relieved really, as it takes quite a lot to get a show like this on, when you’re not only appearing in it but producing it as well (as Warwick is). It was sense of relief and delight that it actually works because you never can tell with these things. The audiences have turned out to have loved it and that’s what really matters.
Living in Derby, I’m really pleased you’ve decided to include us on your tour. Was there something in a particular that drew you here?
I knew that Derby Theatre has recently got a very good reputation and that I would be proud to count us up amongst the really great works going through the theatre. I was delighted when they booked us in
Farce is notoriously difficult to perform well but if performed well it can be fantastic. How have you found it?
We learnt early on in rehearsal that it requires a great deal of accuracy and precision and we worked very hard at that. I think we definitely cracked it. The show has an extreme pace and during that you have to allow the audience to take a breather themselves! The laughs come thick and fast and that pace only increases as you go through the piece, which is obviously how it’s written. It is tricky and challenging but we’ve all risen to the challenge and enjoy it very much.
Did you always have something like See How They Run in mind for your first production?
I love comedy and I always thought it might be nice to do a comedy; but at the same time I was thinking perhaps we should do a straight play. There was no real decision up until we were already committed to doing something. The director, Eric Potts, is a very experienced actor in farce and in the end he was the guy who said this would be a really good thing to do; and I think it is. It provides us with a challenge but also it’s a lot of fun and having heard the audiences and how much they’ve enjoyed it…all they ask is ‘what are you doing next’?
Do you know what you’re doing next?
We don’t know yet but we’ve considered all sorts – a musical, perhaps a more serious straight mystery play? There are quite a lot of options. But for now we’re concentrating on doing the very best we can with See How They Run.
You play Reverend Lionel Toop – that sounds like a fun character!
He is, yeah! The events of the play revolve around his household during one particular night. He’s the Reverend of the Parish and he’s married to an actress, which is frowned upon by some in the village, especially the busybody Miss Skillon. She becomes embroiled in this whole case of mistaken identity and also an escaped German prisoner! It’s a really fun show. My character is a little bit stressed out – he has quite a stressful life – and during the course of the evening, things become very, very, complicated!
I read that you were given a lot of opportunities and support when you were growing up and were always encouraged to do your best. Has that inspired you to give opportunities to others, for example through your Willows Talent Agency and your theatre company?
Yes it has. I realise that I’ve been really fortunate in my career and my life and I felt that I was ready to offer a bit of that back into the profession. I’m well aware that many of my fellow actors who shared my height didn’t share perhaps my success; and I thought it was time to give them a platform to really show what they could do. These people are very talented actors but they never really have the opportunity to show that. The ethos of The Reduced Height Theatre Company, is to give them that platform and really without reference to their size. I want to make it very clear to people that this is a show that makes no fun or reference to our height. It’s purely about performing this very well written play, the best we possibly can. You come along to see the show and you enjoy the characters in the play – it is a celebration of our acting and is in no way laughing at us. Youlaugh along with the characters of course but it has no relation to us being short. That is the key to this for me.
You’ve collaborated a few times with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant which must have been great fun. Do you have any plans to work with them again?
We haven’t got any plans at the moment but we’ve talked about doing another special in a few years; because I think it would be interesting to revisit Warwick’s character and see what he’s up to! With our schedules as well it’s often hard to get everyone in the same room at the same time. It’s something that is always going to be there but whether or not it happens, I don’t know at this point.
You’ve had a really fantastic career spanning three decades but what would you list as your personal highlights?
Getting the break in Star Wars (Return of the Jedi) as I did at 11 – I was a big fan of the films and getting a part in one as Wicket the Ewok was a huge privilege… Doctor Who is certainly a highlight for me [he played the character of Porridge in an episode called ‘Nightmare in Silver’] – I’d always wanted to be in that show.
Have you always been a fan?
I’ve always been a fan and just wanted to do it; and to get an episode written by Neil Gaiman who’s a great writer and to have Cybermen…The character itself is very interestingand seems to really resonate with fan’s experience, so I was really pleased about that. It would be nice if there were more adventures for Porridge in the future!
So is there anything else you would like to tell people about the play?
Just come and see it! I do want to make the point that there is nothing un-PC about it – it’s about celebrating talent amongst a cast of short actors. It’s also quite a unique experience – you don’t get a farce coming around in theatres that often, especially in theatres now; but also what I’ve found surprising is that in our audiences, we’ve had children as young as 8 coming in and enjoying it. Not only is there a really interesting story but it’s quite a fun play to watch because of the amount of going to and fro there is – there’s a lot of interest in it physically: And I suppose my work transcends generations anyway, you know with the things that I’ve been in.
That’s brilliant Warwick! Thank you very much for your time.
I appreciate it. Thank you. Take care.
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