REVIEW: See How They Run, Mansfield Palace Theatre

THE stars were in town earlier this week, but where were the audiences - asks Tony Spittles?

That was the dilemma on Monday at Mansfield Palace Theatre when the comedy ‘See How They Run,’ which had stopped off in town on an 11-venue UK tour, played to a less than full house.

This prompted co-star Arthur Bostrom -- known to many TV fans as the tongue-tied French policeman Officer Crabtree in ‘Allo, Allo’ -- to give a curtain call speech thanking the audience for “being small but perfectly rounded,” and urging them to get on the phones to get others to come and watch them before they headed off to Chipping Norton and Guildford.

Those who did would have been rewarded with a 1945 farcical gem, which while somewhat dated with its wartime undertones still had plenty to deliver on the comedy front.

Bostrom, with his cut-glass English accent, was perfect as the Bishop of Lax visiting his niece, Kelly (Siobhan O’Kelly) and her vicar husband, the Rev Lionel Toop (Alastair Whatley) -- although his arrival also coincided with that of Kelly’s former actor friend who swopped Army uniform to sport a dog collar, as did another bemused minister calling at the vicarage and a German PoW who was on the run with a gun.

If that was not enough former ‘EastEnders’ and ‘Bill’ star Lucy Speed as Miss Skillion, one of the Vicar’s upright parishioners who was uptight at being excluded from decorating the pulpit at the harvest festival, took to drink, aided and abetted by the maid, Ida (Rachel Donovan), who had some of the best comedy action spots in an enjoyable evening of mistaken identity amid a surfeit of vicars all getting their knickers in a twist.

It was not a sin to have watched this clerical chaos, but it was to have missed out on a great night at the theatre.