The Right Size

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The Right Size was a British theatre company active from 1988 to 2006, led by Sean Foley and Hamish McColl. Their major success was The Play What I Wrote, a tribute to Morecambe and Wise, and other key productions included Do You Come Here Often? and Ducktastic.

Early years[edit]

Foley and McColl have frequently been reported as saying that they met in Paris around 1987 when they were learning to be clowns at the school of Philippe Gaulier (with both leaving after a month when they ran out of money).[1][2][3] But it seems more likely they met earlier at Oxford Youth Theatre.[4][5] They formed The Right Size in January 1988.[6] The name arose when working on their first show, which was originally titled The Right Size. When they decided to change the name of that show to Que Sera, they kept The Right Size as their company name.[3] McColl said this was because they "liked everybody's aspirations to be the right size."[3]

From their earliest shows, such as Que Sera, The Bath, Flight to Finland and Moose, The Right Size often tried out productions at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe or London International Mime Festival, and then toured in the UK, Europe and internationally, sometimes in collaboration with the British Council.[6][7] The shows were devised by Foley and McColl with their collaborating co-performers and creative team. "I grew up by creating my own work," Foley said later. "Nobody was going to give me a job, so I created one myself by creating a theatre company, The Right Size. On the first show my partner, Hamish McColl, and I built the set, drove the van, did the show, took the set out, went to the pub."[5]

They were described early on in terms such as "one of Britain's most promising young clown theatre companies"[6] and "[t]he multilingual clowning theatre company [that] specialises in brash physical comedy that is part mime, part slapstick and can just about be traced back to the traditions of the commedia dell'arte".[8] McColl, commenting later on 1980s trends in "physical theatre" based around schools such as those of Philippe Gaulier and Jacques Lecoq in Paris, said, "The difference for us is that we hitched ourselves more to vaudeville and variety. We like to see ourselves as much in that tradition as in the explosion from France."[1]

Double act focus[edit]

From 1994 and Stop Calling Me Vernon, Foley and McColl focused on working as a double act. "We'd always had other people in our shows," Foley recalled. "This was the first time we said, 'I tell you what, let's just do two weeks' rehearsal, just the two of us, and see what we come up with.' And when we put it up in front of an audience, they laughed their socks off. That's when we found that we were a double-act."[1] Stop Calling Me Vernon was about a fading vaudeville duo, practicing their old gags whilst waiting for their next big break.

Their major 1997 success Do You Come Here Often? was about two strangers stuck in a bathroom for 25 years. The show was inspired by the experiences of Beirut hostages Brian Keenan and John McCarthy.[9]

The Play What I Wrote and Ducktastic[edit]

The Right Size achieved major UK and international success with The Play What I Wrote. Their final play together was 2005's Ducktastic, a satire on Siegfried and Roy, but with performing ducks instead of tigers.

Collaborators and influences[edit]

Foley and McColl were loyal collaborators with others, working consistently with behind-the-scenes partners over the years including director Jozef Houben, from 1991-2001,[10] designer Alice Power, from 1991-2006[11] and songwriter Chris Larner, from 1992-2000.[12][13] Through these collaborators, and others such as co-performer Micheline Vandepoel,[14] The Right Size have links to physical theatre companies such as Complicite and Spymonkey.

The duo have regularly credited vaudeville legend Johnny Hutch[15] as an inspiration.[1][2][16][17]


Productions were generally devised, written and performed in by Foley and McColl.

The Right Size theatre productions
Date Production Director Theatre Notes
1988 Que Sera Jozef Houben Almeida Theatre Also Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[3][6][18]
The Bath Jozef Houben Toured UK and internationally, including Europe, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Also Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[6][18]
1991 Flight To Finland Jozef Houben London International Mime Festival Toured in 1993 including UK, Europe, and South America.[12][18][19]
1992 Moose Jozef Houben London International Mime Festival Toured the UK and internationally.[11][18][19]
1993 Penny Dreadful Battersea Arts Centre Toured the UK and internationally.[8][11][20]
1994 Baldy Hopkins Hamish McColl Cochrane Theatre Toured the UK and internationally.[11][21]
1994 Stop Calling Me Vernon Jozef Houben Edinburgh Festival Fringe Toured the UK.[17][18]
1995 Hold Me Down Jozef Houben Purcell Room Toured the UK and internationally.[11][20][22]
1997 Do You Come Here Often? Jozef Houben Lyric Hammersmith Studio Also Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Vaudeville Theatre. Winner of the 1997 Total Theatre Award for Most Innovative overall production. Winner of the 1999 Olivier Award for Best Entertainment.[18][23][24]
1998 Mr Puntila and his Man Matti Kathryn Hunter Almeida Theatre A co-production between The Right Size and the Almeida Theatre, adapted by Lee Hall from the play by Bertolt Brecht. Also at the Traverse Theatre and a UK tour. McColl played Mr Puntila, Foley played Matti.[12][18]
2001 Bewilderness Jozef Houben Lyric Hammersmith Also toured.[18]
2001 The Play What I Wrote Kenneth Branagh Wyndhams Theatre Also Lyceum Theatre on Broadway.[11][18]
2005 Ducktastic Kenneth Branagh Albery Theatre [18]


  • Foley & McColl: This Way Up, 2005


  • The Remains of Foley and McColl, 2000


  1. ^ a b c d Brian Logan, "How stupid can they get?", The Guardian, 12 July 1999. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  2. ^ a b Fiachra Gibbons, "The play what is breaking West End theatre records", The Guardian, 22 December 2001 . Retrieved 2012-10-17.
  3. ^ a b c d Barbara Isenberg, "A One-Two Punch Line", Los Angeles Times, 27 January 2002. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  4. ^ Helen Peacocke, "Pegasus memories", The Oxford Times, 18 January 2008. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  5. ^ a b Terry Grimley, "Terry Grimley meets Sean Foley, co-creator of The Play What I Wrote, now playing Sigmund Freud at Birmingham Rep.", The Birmingham Post, 25 April 2007. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  6. ^ a b c d e Noor Hayati, "Three's The Right Size", New Straits Times, 1 Jul 1989. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  7. ^ "Celebrating 10 years of new UK theatre on the world stage", British Council, 2007. Retrieved 2012-10-21.
  8. ^ a b Nick Curtis, "THE FRINGE / Not as funny as all that: Nick Curtis on the caperings of Penny Dreadful and the calm Song for a Bluefoot Man", The Independent, 6 October 1993. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  9. ^ Lyn Gardner, "Adventures in Wonderland", The Guardian, 25 April 2001. Retrieved 2012-10-21.
  10. ^ "Spymonkey's Moby Dick" Archived 21 April 2013 at Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  11. ^ a b c d e f "The Agency - Clients - Individuals" Archived 1 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine, the agency. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  12. ^ a b c "Chris Larner: CV: Acting: Stage". Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  13. ^ "Chris Larner: CV: General". Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  14. ^ "Formations - Micheline Vandepoel", Espace Catastrophe. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  15. ^ "Johnny Hutch", Circopedia. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  16. ^ Sean Foley and Hamish McColl, "The right way to get it wrong - Stage", The Guardian, 1 November 2001. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  17. ^ a b Miles Kington, "Edinburgh Festival / Final Day: Why the Right Size is huge: Hamish McColl looks a bit like Stan Laurel; Sean Foley doesn't. Miles Kington accepted an invitation to Stop Calling Me Vernon", The Independent, 2 September 1994. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Hamish McColl", United Agents. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  19. ^ a b "MimeLondon - London International Mime Festival". Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  20. ^ a b Nigel Edwards, "A Brief History". Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  21. ^ Hamish McColl, "On Tour: The Right Size", The Independent, 19 April 1994. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  22. ^ Dominic Cavendish, "Theatre:The Right Size Purcell Room, South Bank", The Independent, 22 June 1995. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  23. ^ "Previous Winners: Olivier Winners 1999" Archived 17 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine, The Society of London Theatre. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  24. ^ "Total Theatre Awards - Past Winners" Archived 19 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Total Theatre. Retrieved 2012-10-20.

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