ACT Theatre Reviews 2021-2022

THE VICAR OF DIBLEY Director: Stephen Woods Assisted by Darren Brierley & Josiah David Bacup RCTG In these dark times an evening of comedy and laughter lifts the soul. This iconic BBC situation comedy has become a stage play featuring all the regular players. In saying that, finding actors to fill those much loved characters shoes has to be quite a challenge. Paul Ashworth’s very detailed split set of the church hall, and the lounge of the vicarage was so important to the identification of the drama. Set dressings and props enriched the concept. The lighting and sound, with visuals (Adam Greenwood) of the television opening of the sitcom, all adding to the presentation of this “most successful British programme of the digital era”. Costumes made the right statements making it easy to identify the infamous parish committee, and that famous wedding dress! Casting could not have been bettered from the vicar herself to the Teletubbies. As an audience first seeing the committee. we looked for Hugo and Owen. and they were easy to recognise. Let me make it clear the actors did not just give an impersonation of the TV actors they put their own individual stamp on the character they were playing. Their performances were an example of teamwork; comedy relies so much on the feed of lines and the timing of the response. Besides all the mayhem there was at committee meetings, there was the running joke of Letitia Cropley and her culinary skills or the lack of them. The deadpan Letita, was played to the full by Janice Purslow. All the other character roles, from the company of the holy little ones to the wedding guests complemented the production. Chairing the meetings was David Horton, the lynchpin of what goes on in the parish. He also lays the ground for the comedy to unfold. Connal O’Reilly metered out Horton’s authority allowing the comedy to have maximum effect. The inept minute secretary, Frank Pickles, with all his foibles, was captured in Nicholas Peat’s portrayal. If I said, “No, No, No, Yes”, you would instantly know I was referring to the character. Jim Trott. Darren Brierley encapsulated Jim, displaying such comic timing. His characterisation delighted the audience. Then there was farmer Owen Newitt, the ladies’ man, or at least he thinks he is, Niel Giola could not have extracted anymore from the role. The proposal to the vicar, and the returning of her tooth filling, showed his comedic talents to the full. Nathaniel McCarney gave a comic tour-de-force performance as the shy, tongue-tied Hugo. His eventual sweetheart and fiancée is the innocent, naïve Alice Tinker. Danelle Radcliffe had all the phrasing of Emma Chambers’ original Alice: the partnership with the Vicar worked so well. Enter Geraldine filling the vacancy of the deceased, long-standing vicar of St Barnabas Dibley. Helena Rose was the new vicar of Dibley. Helena completely nailed the character. She held the stage throughout: all her scenes with each of the characters were playfully carried out. There was nothing lost from TV to stage and, as always, the audience is the marker of a good show and this one they loved.