A Vicar of Dibley Christmas - The Second Coming

Date 10th February 2022
Society Thurrock Courts Players
Venue Thameside Theatre
Type of Production Play
Director Martyn Williams

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Author: Zahna Hull

I received a warm welcome at the Thameside Theatre for A Vicar of Dibley Christmas – The Second Coming. It was opening night and it was busy. Thurrock Courts Players had performed The Vicar of Dibley in 2015 and hoped to perform this play in 2020 but it was delayed due to the Covid pandemic. Martyn Williams has been performing and directing for 50 years; he is proud of his cast and so he should be. It was a really fun and entertaining night.

If you’ve watched and loved the TV show, you may have memories of the iconic scenes and performances in the Vicar of Dibley over the years. Could any amateur production do it justice? I think yes.  

The stage was cleverly split in two, with half being Rev. Geraldine Granger’s sitting room in the vicarage and the other half, the Parish Hall. The set was very effective, despite the odd wobble when the cottage door closed. The final Christmas Nativity took place in front of the curtain and this worked well, representing a dark night.

The play was a series of scenes, many of which were easily recognisable from the TV show. They were well staged, well-paced and very funny. There were 16 scenes in Act one and 9 scenes in Act two. The scene changes were slick and the technical crew were very good too. The musical interludes and the lighting changes worked well to keep the pace up. The technical aspect to the Radio show was very well executed.

The plot involved Alice discovering she is pregnant and trying to adjust to being part of the Horton family, The Dibley Radio show, and the production of the Dibley Nativity.

As I have noted before, Thurrock Courts Players are great at characterisation and this was evident in this production. Visually everyone did a good job and there was some stand out moments where we found ourselves belly-laughing.  

Geraldine Granger was played by Jill Snelling and was a good choice for the amiable vicar. By the end of the play, we felt her pain as she contended with her rather unorthodox Nativity cast. The vision of her with Angel wings shouting in frustration will stay in my memory. Alice Tinker was played by Gemma Cavini, her voice and mannerisms were spot on for the character. Her eye contact, her speech and her timing all excellent. The attention to detail for characters was continued; Wayne Prince’s Hugo Horton was very accurate. His body posture and head movements were excellent and the juxtaposition of his relationship with Alice and his domineering father was really noticeable. Vic Gray played David Horton. Vic held the part well, a supercilious councillor, land owner and chair of the Parish Council, who in the TV series was played by recently deceased Gary Waldhorn. I think this portrayal was a fitting tribute. David Horton was put in his place when, during the Radio Dibley quiz, Alice actually beat him - with carefully engineered questions written by Geraldine.

Mike Jones played Owen Newitt brilliantly. It was not only his stature but his voice and intonation that made his character so good. His comic timing is impeccable and led to some very funny moments.  Owen Newitt dressed as Elvis, in a costume that did not leave much to the imagination, was hilarious.

Equally impressive was David Carey as Jim Trott. I really enjoyed his frequent costume changes and I particularly appreciated his Billie Jean King Tennis outfit. David’s voice and posture was another excellent example of accurate characterisation. Jim’s well known manner of saying ‘No, no, no………..’ before every speech was particularly funny and well observed.

We didn’t hear much of Lisa Chapman as Letitia Cropley, but she did a good job, there were some references to her unusual cooking and there was great attention to detail with different coloured knitting for different scenes. Harry Doyle gave a great performance as Frank Pickle, a ‘boring’ character who created some hilarity with his taking down of the Parish council minutes. One of the highlights of the play was when, during his slot in the Dibley radio show, Frank decided to ‘come out’. He arrived at the next council meeting in a fabulous pink blazer but no one had listened to the broadcast and just ignored his new liberated self. Frank’s impression of Stephen Hawking for his audition for the ‘wise man’ was another highlight for me.  Frank had a lovely wardrobe, with several coloured sweaters; overall, the costumes were impressive, and in keeping with the piece.  

I had a very enjoyable evening; a really good laugh and I enjoyed the skill of the cast and crew. Thank you for inviting me, I look forward to future productions.