The Vicar Of Dibley

Date 16th June 2022
Society Pendle Hippodrome Theatre Company
Venue Pendle Hippodrome Theatre
Type of Production Play
Director Fiona Thompson
Producer The Company
Written By Steve Clark and David Lovesy from the original by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer


Author: Paul R. Mason

The title speaks for itself. We know exaclty what we are in for when the word 'Dibley' appears on publicity. Yes the rotund, not so rotund in Angela Boult's case, is playing the halls again. It took me some time to realise that this version of the popular TV programme was not written by its originals i.e. Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer but by two gentlemen of less impressive credentials - I must say it showed in the way they had handled the script. The piece is really a series of self contained vignettes each centring around one joke. To construct a successful entertaining production around any much loved television comedy is in itself a challenge. Directors must determine from the moment of casting whether they wish to try to recreate the characters as near to those seen and loved on screen or whether to accentuate the comedy and let the audience fill in the missing bits. Fiona Thompson had done neither. She had remarkably constructed a village community around all these familiar characters but allowed them to become themselves without slavishly conforming to the originals. Yes they looked somewhat similar but not too much so. This freed the actors to use their own personal skills to build singular personalities. It worked very well. This approach also had the effect of overriding the occasional deficiencies of the script. 

As Geraldine Grainger, Anglea Boult was outstanding. If you have an average vicar on stage you have lost the audience from the start no matter how many "no, no, nos" Jim can throw out!  Angela was wonderful. I would like to have her as my vicar any day. Employing well conceived facial expressions and totally at home and at ease on stage Angela ensured the complete success of the whole venture.  One character that must be played as close to the original is Alice Tinker, to try to do anything but recreate the innocent daftness she brings to the play would be folly. Alice lived. Gina Anson was amazing! Her Alice was charming, clever in its playing and yet wonderfully authentic. Such fun!! Simon Jackson as Hugo Horton supplied naivety and honesty in spades. Never the silly clot he can sometimes be shown to be, he emerged as a normal, Alice and baby Geraldine loving individual. You see it is possible with skillful direction to add something to erstwhile cardboard cutouts. Likewise Barry Jackson as David Horton, dressed to the tee as he should be, showed us a decent conservative retired business man with his eye to the main chance but prepared to put the needs of the community before personal gain. I would be happy to share a pint with him any day, and I don't think I would say that about the original. Ken Horsefield was in his element as Owen Newit. He took every chance to be inappropriate and clearly enjoyed every second of doing so. Orm Green showed us a fresh side of Frank Pickle. Orm has a massive stage presence. Fiona had placed him appropriately and powerfully in the centre of the committee table. Together with his colourful costume this added intrigue to this sometimes underplayed village secretary. The vastly experienced Jackie Eddington was a dream as Mrs. Cropley. Bringing her tasty treats to every gathering it was always a pleasure to share in her unalloyed enthusiasm for her latest creative masterpiece.And so to Jim Trott. I keep seeing Damian Marsh popping up in productions all over the place. You must patent your method for learning lines, Damian. You will believe it when I tell you (what you already know) that Damian can play any role be it comedy or tragedy or musical with consummate skill. This Jim was better than the original. However Damian if you are going to go naked then go the whole hog. I am sure you have other outstanding attributes for us to admire.As the bishop, Alan Hargreaves was a fright. I doubt the original writer would have had him play the same joke quite so many times, subtlety is a good tool properly applied. But you can bless us any day, Alan. In the smaller roles, Helen Spencer, Christine Spencer and Karen Wormwell acquitted themselves well. These roles are not designed to attract our sympathy so are difficult to carry off. They were each well played within the strictures of the piece.

The set, or sets, were clever and very little time was wanted getting from one side of the stage to the other or changing the flats around. This was down to good stage management under the direction of Penelope Hatfield. The excellent lighting and sound were in the hands of Stevan Manley, (soon to be picking a pocket or two) and Karl Pilkington. The rise of the Geraldine statue from the ground  was unexpected and worked a treat.

So overall an enjoyable production, full of surprises and nuances that added so much to the audience's appreciation. Thank you, Fiona.