The Vicar of Dibley

Date 28th May 2022
Society Henley Players
Venue Henley Community Centre, Suffolk
Type of Production Play
Directors Kevin Griggs & Tony Stokes

Report

Author: Catherine Dixey

This was my first visit to see Henley and I must say I was so impressed with their facilities, with a fabulous large hall and stage and a vast array lighting for a village hall. Also with the added facilities of numerous rooms for rehearsing and changing, all connected up to an audio and visual display unit, with substantial areas for storing scenery, costumes and props. They are very lucky to have such excellent facilities and something that many Societies in this area would be green with envy of.

We were warmly welcomed by Charlotte McBurney, Stage Manager and Tony Stokes, and the whole audience was treated to a glass of Prosecco and an afternoon tea at our own table before the evening of entertainment began.The Vicar of Dibley as everyone knows is an iconic comedy with the legendary Dawn French in the title role, and audiences are always looking to compare the actors they see on stage with the characters from their television screens.

This then means that all the actors are expected to, and it was obvious that they all had, studied their onscreen character in depth. However this does not allow for any of them to give their own interpretation of their character but to mimic them, with most of them achieving a very passable comparison. So much so, that if you closed your eyes you were able visualise the character they are playing. On top of that it is also a requisite that they even look and sound similar to their onscreen character, and at some of the time they achieved this with an uncanny similarity to their appearance and mimicking their mannerisms. That being said it is something that the directors need to impress upon their cast prior to auditions, something in this instance that the Directors, Kevin & Tony did mostly achieve to good effect.

Ali Jordan played the chocolate scoffing Vicar trying to act like a sensible Vicar but never quite achieving it before her sillier side overtook her character. Her onscreen good friend, the bubbly, scatterbrian, lovable character of Alice was played by Molly Barnett. It was evident that both had worked hard on studying their characters in these very demanding roles. Mark Robinson was the balding, impeccably well-spoken and iconic Parish councillor David Horton who fancies his chances with the Vicar. Mark was very convincing in his characterisation.   Owen the rather coarse, and vulgar farmer was played by Richard Ashby who captured his character admirably. Whilst the ponderously slow Jim Trott with the famous saying, “no no no, no-yes”, was played by Julian Ochwat who injected good measures of comedy into the role. Hugo Horton, Alice’s husband, was played by Dominic Brock, and Allan Rogers played the totally boring Frank Pickle obsessed with taking his minutes at the parish meetings. We the audience just hoped that Letitia Copley didn’t have a hand in making our cream teas as she was always mixing weird concoctions of Marmite and lemon curd and other disgusting ingredients together into her cakes that she took to the Parish Council meetings. She was played by Marina Griggs. Well done to all the cast for their hard work and characterizations.

Unfortunately the way this play was written was very bitty, and in most cases each scene only lasted for a couple of minutes before changing to another scene. This meant that all the onstage characters were constantly coming on and existing each of the sets before entering again onto another of the sets. It was essential that all the sets have to be visible all the time so cast can quickly go from one to another without the backstage crew forever physically changing scenes. The transitions between each scene was helped with some narration and appropriate music, but still I’m afraid it did unavoidably slow the pace. I must stress that this was not the fault of the directors but was because of the way the play had been written. All the in-house sets were nicely decorated with the help of numerous props, and the costumes were all well thought out to look similar to their onscreen characters.

A most entertaining and comical evening. Thank you for inviting us. We will look forward to seeing your Panto.