The Vicar of Dibley

Date 18th January 2020
Society Skegness Musical Theatre Company
Venue Burgh Le Marsh
Type of Production Play
Director Andrea Hall

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Author: Andrew Key

The Vicar of Dibley is one of my all time favourite sit coms. It's hard to believe that it's more than twenty years since the last series finished and more than ten years since the last winter special was aired. The first series came only four years after the Church of England ordained their first female vicars so the subject matter for the TV comedy venture could have meant it fell flat on its face. But of course it didn’t and is now ingrained in our DNA as a country.

Those characters and all their associated eccentricities are as fresh in our minds now as they ever were. And this could of course be a big problem for any present day actors wanting to bring this show to life – whether professionally or as an amateur version.

The Skegness Musical Theatre Company I learned thought that putting on this touring version of two consecutive episodes from series 2 – ‘Dibley Live’ and ‘Celebrity Vicar’ would ‘give members something to do through the winter.’ I know that the society have been delighted by how its been received, and rightly so. It truly captured the essence of the show, so difficult when we all remember so well the actors who created these much loved characters.

There wasn’t a programme or cast list for the audience so I will refer to the players in the production by their character names.

This was the last night of the show and the village hall was packed, with extra folk turning up and being fitted in.

David Horton was the epitome of a rural Parish Council Chairman. This part was played just as we remember it on TV. His Alice putdowns were cutting and brutal: she’s got the  ‘intellectual capacity of a prawn sandwich.’ Excellent acting throughout from this clearly very experienced actor. Hugo ‘Hot Dog’ Horton was his perfect foil.

 Jim Trott was in typical mood. ‘Sex, sex, sex, that’s all that’s on my TV. I watch the Playboy Channel.’ Superb attention to detail with this character. No, no, no, it truly was. And Owen’s coarseness came through effectively, ‘I like The Times, its not too rough on the buttocks.’. And similarly with dapper Frank Pickle. He really could bore for England but his revelation during his stint on the radio show was sensitively and powerfully done.

The title part of Geraldine must have seemed a daunting prospect for the actress cast. After all, The Vicar of Dibley was written for Dawn French. But I completely forgot about Dawn French, Skegness really does have its own Vicar of Dibley for this production. And I loved the ballet sequence with wonderful ballerina D’Arcy Bussell. Well done.

Alice Tinkler GCE, PMT, TTFN was a real favourite of viewers and the late great Emma Chambers  a personal favourite actor of mine too so I was determined not to be too impressed with the Alice from Skegness. But the part was played true to character, entirely straight faced (especially during the closing jokes) and with such wonderful results. This was a tour de force of a performance. We really were with Alice and inside her uniquely obtuse mind. We loved her and wanted her so much to be The Brain of Dibley. Well done to this wonderful comic actress.

The troop of local WI Women singing Howard’s Goodall’s version of the 23rd Psalm, the programme’s theme tune, successfully covered scene changes. I loved the increasing competitiveness of them all as they competed with their knits, flowers and bakes through the second half.

Skegness staged the play simply but effectively, with all the key furniture and props we remember from the crotched squares on Geraldine’s settee covers to the pictures of Jesus and Sean Bean on her writing desk. Costumes were faithful too to the original; - I loved Frank’s sudden appearance in his pink waistcoat and tie and Geraldine’s ‘matching’ ballet outfit. The lighting was good and I particularly liked the change for David’s daydream.

As the play was produced at floor level rather than from the stage it may have been worth thinking about staging the play the other way round in the Hall so that audience members were closer to the action, avoiding people being so far back. This may have helped eyelines when characters were seated. There may, of course, have been reasons why this was not possible.

I do hope that the Society are able to take this show to other venues – it is well worth the effort to do so. What a good idea to tour. Hopefully this will introduce more people to this very talented group and encourage them to get to the next show in Skegness.

My congratulations and best wishes to all the members of the Society and thank you for inviting me to my first show by Skegness Musical Theatre Company. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening with you and heartily recommend this very friendly and welcoming group to all would be theatre goers in Lincolnshire. Your journey to the Skegness area will be well worth it.

 

Andrew Key

18th January 2020