MuggleNet’s “Short” Interview with the Reduced Height Theatre Co.
by Kat Miller · Published · Updated
One of our favorite Potter alumni, Mr. Warwick Davis, is currently touring the United Kindom with his brand-new venture, the Reduced Height Theatre Company, and its first production, See How They Run. During their stop in Bromley last week, Warwick and a few cast members took some time to sit down with us to discuss the show, stereotypes, and what’s up next.
Transcribed by Adam Leuenberger
Kat Miller: So Rachel, you play Penelope in the play, yes?
Rachel Denning: Yeah.
Kat: Great! How did you become involved with Reduced Height?
Rachel: I'd already known of Warwick and I think Warwick had known of me, and then he invited us all to have a workshop day where we all came in the day, very informal, very relaxed, and we basically just played. We did different scenes, we all had to go try the different characters, and then we had a day where we kind of realized it would work as an idea. And then after that, we went away and then the producers and directors had obviously discussed some things, then we decided who was going to play who. So then an extra casting day after that. We then auditioned for specific parts and then I was cast as Penelope!
Kat: Did you get the part you wanted?
Rachel: I really like all the female parts. I say all the female parts bring something so different to it, so yeah, I was very excited for Penelope. Any of the females would have been good.
Kat: Yeah! We had somebody review the play and she loved it. She said she's never laughed so hard at a show. So that's great.
Rachel: That's a good thing.
Kat: That is a good thing. So I wanted to talk to you a little bit about... I know an issue that's really dear to Warwick is the casting of short actors in films and things of that nature, and usually, short actors are viewed as character actors. Do you view yourself as a character actor? How would you characterize, for people [who] are unaware?
Rachel: Well, I don't really think about it because I like acting and I like challenging myself, so I'd rather do that.
Kat: What would be your dream role, the one thing you could do, what would it be?
Rachel: My dream role would probably be Emma in The Betrayal. I would love to play her. Or the nurse in Romeo and Juliet. Probably.
Kat: I'm sorry, who?
Rachel: The nurse in Romeo and Juliet.
Kat: Oh, okay, that's a good one. That's a good answer. Well, thank you.
Rachel: Theater wise, that would be my dream role.
Kat: That is all I have for you!
Rachel: Okay, cool, thank you very much. Bye bye.
Kat: Thank you!
Warwick Davis: Kat this is Jon Key.
Jon Key: Hi!
Warwick: A very esteemed actor.
Kat: Hi Jon.
Warwick: You'd know him because this is a Harry Potter related one.
Jon: Oh, right.
Warwick: [to Jon] She'd know you for the work you did in Harry Potter.
Kat: Hi, how are you?
Jon: I'm fine thank you. You?
Kat: Good! I recognize your face immediately. That's funny.
Jon: Did you?
Kat: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's the eyes.
Jon: Oh could be, yes! Probably without all the Bogrod makeup. Because it made me look so old.
Kat: [laughs] You had prosthetics for that, I assume. What did they make?
Jon: It was 4 hours of makeup every day. But it's so skillfully done and it just looks amazing. They work so hard, and [it's] beautifully hand-painted, and [there is] all the effort that goes into it to make it look so good, and you sit in front of the mirror as they're doing it. As I said, it's a four-hour process and one, it's really relaxing because you feel really pampered because they treat you so well, and then you can see this creature, this character, come to life in front of your very eyes. It's extraordinary because a lot of people who know me look at the film and say, "You can tell it's you," because of course you do a head cast and it's made to your face, so certain features are still there in the character Bogrod. So my friends say "Oh, yeah, you can tell it's you".
Kat: You can tell, yeah. Well, I recognized you immediately!
Kat: Alright, so let's talk a little bit about Reduced Height. How did you get involved?
Jon: I've known Warwick for years. Since he was about... how long have I known you, Warwick... probably about ...
Warwick: Was it Star Wars?
Jon: No, I was not in Star Wars. I think it was Labyrinth when Warwick was 16. So we've always sort of kept in touch and would come along for the auditions. We had such a ball then, and it's such an amazing concept that Warwick has put together in terms of giving short-statured actors the opportunity to go out there and play real parts, real people. What's amazing is every time we do the show, the audience, within moments into the piece - I think they forget that we're a company of dwarf actors - all the laughs are there because of the way the play [is] written. They're not laughing at us, they're just laughing with us and laughing with the characters, and it works well. It's down to Warwick whose actually put this all together. It's probably a unique worldwide first that you've got a theater company with an average height of 4′ 2[″], and it's giving a platform to all of us in the company to get out there and give it some wellie and show what we can really do. It was an opportunity I really didn't want to miss out on. I wanted to be a part of this production, and get around it, and support Warwick and what he's doing. It's such a talented company and we have so much fun working, and the audience reaction is probably better than we could have ever dreamed of. It works.
Kat: Yeah, we had someone come and review the show, and she said that she'd never laughed so hard at the theater. So... [laughs] Good Review.
Jon: Good! No, that's good. Good.
Kat: So you personally [have] done TV, you've done films, and now you are doing theater. Do you think you'll continue to bounce between the three, or do you see your future leaning towards one or the other?
Jon: Theater's my first love. I love the theater. After my stint in London in the 90's I did a musical called Notre Dame. We were hoping to get into West End with Mark Bramble who did 42nd street. I missed the stage, and to come back and do this. I love the immediacy of being out there and doing it. That's one reason I do love the theater, and I love having the audience to work from. Film is so different in that it's such a technical medium and everything's got to be right technically; the lighting, the camera angles, et cetera, et cetera. And as an actor, you get thrown in last minute. The wonderful thing about stage is the rehearsal process that you go through and the creative process of putting a piece together and also working with a company of actors. You spend a lot of time together. We've got another ten weeks to go on this tour, and we already know each other really well, and it's just a great feeling. There's something about going to a different town every week and going into different digs; it's a lot of fun. Yeah, I'd love to do more theater.
Kat: What would you say the biggest challenge of this show in particular is?
Jon: I think because it's a farce. When Warwick first put this project together and I thought, "Oh, they've chosen a farce. That's going to be so difficult." Because of the timing, everything has to be geographically sorted and people have got to... It's split timing and exists and that sort of thing. We spend a lot of time in the rehearsal process blocking that and getting that right and then building the characterizations of the characters on top of that so I thought that was the real challenge. And I did think, "Oh, this is really brave choosing a farce," because imagine the headlines in the press saying farcical for the wrong reasons and now we've got it right. It was a real challenge to get it right and I think we've achieved that. But that was the challenge, the fact that it's a farce and it relies on particular skills and something that I've never done before, so as an individual that was a challenge too.
Kat: Good! So you've grown and learned a lot from this show too. That's great.
Jon: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. So much..
Kat: Where are you guys right now?
Jon: We are in Westcliff-on-Sea, which is by South End, which is in Essex, down on the southeast corner of England to the east of London. So we've got the sea here, we've got really healthy fresh air. And it made me very tired yesterday afternoon.
Kat: [laughs] Good. I'm glad that helped. This is your second stop right?
Jon: Yeah, we rehearsed in Bromley for 3 weeks. Then [we] went into the theater for our production week, which was last week. We opened on Wednesday. We've been up and running a week, so this is our second venue. And it's a beautiful little theater here built in 1912, and it's really got a lovely feel about it. And it's neat to be here. I just hope all the theaters we go to... they'll all be different, they'll all present different challenges and all sorts, but it's going to be great.
Kat: Well, thank you! That's all I have for you.
Jon: That's lovely. Thank you so much. Thank you for your time.
Kat: Thank you, Jon. It's sure nice to meet you.
Jon: You too! God bless. Bye.
Kat: Hi Warwick.
Warwick: Hey Kat.
Kat: So you are currently on tour with See How they Run. Tell everybody listening and watching this about the show.
Warwick: See How They Run is a farce, which is a very particular sort of genre in theater. It's very fast-paced and normally involves mistaken identity and a lot of going in and out of doors. So as one character leaves another would come onto the scene and there will be confusion about who this person is, and it's classic but quite challenging to perform as a cast because the cues have to be very tight and the whole thing has to move at a very fast pace. The comedy heightens as you go through the play to this chaotic scene at the end of the show. Which the audience, by then, are fully involved and absolutely loving it.
Kat: And this is the first production under your company Reduced Height Theatre, right? Which has been a dream of yours for years, I read? How did that come to be?
Warwick: Yeah, I've been thinking about this for a couple of years now, really. [There were] a few reasons for it, one of them was a fairly selfish one. I actually wanted to be in a play and was never getting offered. Perhaps the time has come where I should produce the play and cast myself in it. That was the first thought. Another thought was that I'd done a documentary for ITV, and it was about the Ovitz family, [which was] a family of dwarves who used to entertain in Eastern and Central Europe in the 1930s and '40s. And they didn't rely on their size. They were about performance, scripts, and they built their own sets, they all played instruments, and it was about them being good performers and nothing to do with their size, and that was inspirational to me. And then the final thought was about the other actors, such as Jon and Rachel whom you already spoke to, who are trained and brilliant at their craft but never really have the challenging roles to actually explore that and to be challenged in what they're doing. I wanted to give them a platform to be able to stand up there and be recognized as actors and not just short people who do acting, basically. And so the Reduced Height Theatre Company ethos is to create that platform to give them a chance to show what they can do.
Kat: Yeah, you've been really outspoken about that, actually, in the film industry. Is it really the same in the theater as well and in television, I assume?
Warwick: Yeah, it is sometimes. I've been really fortunate in my career but I know that's not the case for everybody. I think that it's time that the world sat up and realized that although we're short, there are many, many capable actors out there, and there are parts that these actors should be getting that make no reference to their size. It is about the characters, and this play does that so beautifully because we have reduced the height of the set that you really - in the theater environment - actually forget that the cast are short and you just enjoy the play and the characters and performances.
Kat: Right, which is the most important part anyway. So in the past, you've kind of touched all the genres. You've done television, film, and now theater. Do you think you will continue to bounce between the three or do you see your future learning towards one of them?
Warwick: I just do what I feel like at that time. If I get offered something in TV that I like the sound of and will challenge me on to something else, then I'll do it, and film is the same. I just did a film called Get Santa and it was a particularly good script, and they really wanted me to do it even though it clashed with this work on the rehearsals for the show. I was delighted to do it because I enjoyed the script and also it was a chance to work with Jim Broadbent again who I last worked with on Harry Potter, of course. But yeah, it's whatever presents itself and whatever I feel is right to do at that time. So yeah, I won't... I'm not making a particular decision to do film or TV or a play. It's just whatever comes around and whatever seems to fit.
Kat: Have they talked to you at all about Star Wars? I just feel like I have to ask that.
Warwick: No, not yet. I wish they would but nothing yet. I've dropped a lot of hints but nothing [has] come of it so...
Kat: Fingers are crossed right?
[Kat and Warwick laugh]
Kat: I have a couple [of] Twitter questions for you and then I'll let you go. The first one here is from @PottersPatronum. She asks, "What's your favorite thing about performing on stage?"
Warwick: Just really the fact that there's a live audience there and you don't get [a] chance for a take two, so it's quite exciting as a performer. You get very lazy when you do films and you know there's a chance to do another take if you go wrong, but on stage, you have to go out there at 110% and deliver, and that's exciting. It's challenging. It teaches good discipline, basically, because we all do get lazy as actors, but going out here on stage as I do, and as I have just done, you really have to be on your game, and if you're not, the audience will soon tell you, but if you are, it's the best feeling in the world to receive the applause and the laughter or whatever it is you are trying to evoke at that moment.
Kat: @HobbitLaura wants to know what the biggest challenge doing this show is?
Warwick: I think it's really the pace of the whole thing because it does have to be so fast and so big. It's so much bigger than an average play, this, in a sense of the level of performance has to be bigger because of the fact it's fast. And so more or less, we are playing caricatures, almost, and everything is heightened and if we don't come off the stage exhausted after each performance, then we haven't been doing it right. That's the yardstick to measure this by. It's really one of the most fun things I've done on the stage, but it is challenging, that pace, and that energy that you have to have; because that's infectious. If you go out there with that, the audience then feel that and feed that back to you again, and it creates the most brilliant atmosphere in the theater.
Kat: That sounds fun, I wish I could see it! And actually speaking of that, @87_taylorp. She wants to know if you have any plans to come to Canada soon? And I'm going to expand on that and say you should go international with the show. I really want to see it.
Warwick: Well, we've had a lot of requests to go further afield with the show. I'm just hoping a promoter might pick up the show and say, 'We'd love to bring you to America, Canada, wherever, for a tour." The company is fully formed and we are all enjoying it immensely. We got another ten weeks to go of the tour here, but who knows what could happen in that time? It's certainly something we'd love to carry on to do. Not only the show we currently are doing but to introduce other shows into the Reduced Height Theatre Company's repertoire as well.
Kat: Great. Well, I hope it happens for my own selfish reasons and for everybody else.
Warwick: Very much. Thank you.
Kat: Of course! That's all I have for you today Warwick.
Warwick: Thanks for taking the time to support us with this. Thank you, Kat. Speak to you soon.
Kat: Thank you very much, Warwick. Have a good day.