Vicar Of Dibley

Date 24th September 2021
Society Bacup Royal Court Theatre Group
Venue Bacup Royal Court Theatre
Type of Production Play
Director Stephen Woods
Musical Director N/A
Choreographer N/A
Producer Nick Daye

Report

Author: Paul Mason

“The Vicar Of Dibley “ was first broadcast on BBC TV way back in November 1994. To reference a landmark, this was the year “Kinky Boots'' composer Cyndi Lauper was reminding us that girls just want to have fun; long before many of the audience were thought of. The “VOD” quickly established itself as one of the most successful comedies of all time. Its essential Englishness combined with its gentle respect for the Church Of England's major step forward by approving the ordination of women, exceptional writing, brilliant characterization and outstanding acting ensured the series passed into the psyche of the nation. Women priests and bishops are now commonplace of course.  However the passage of time has in no way diminished the appeal of this comforting undemanding comedy.

As with all adaptations of television series the challenge for stage versions is to pay tribute to the original without attempting to slavishly impersonate. Plays of this genre are unashamedly designed to remind us why we so love the characters we know so well and, above all, to entertain.

Bacup’s version was hugely entertaining. Director Stephen Woods’s cast was just right. We instantly recognised the friends we love. Excellent casting  ensured that all of the actors looked their parts, able to demonstrate, (not mimic), the essential foibles of each one. It is reassuring to audiences to realise they are in the company of old companions. We know what to expect from them, and yet, no matter how familiar to us we still derive pleasure from seeing them in the flesh. Suspension of disbelief is never better employed than in plays of this persuasion.

As the informative amusing stage curtain rose (Note to Self: I must remember to get my Toyah tickets) a clever split set greeted us. Stage left was the village hall while stage right served as the vicar’s cosy front room and kitchen. This set  has already established the standard for all the plays I shall have the pleasure of seeing in NODA  district 3 over the coming months. I greatly respect and admire the company’s care and attention to detail. Congratulations to Paul Ashworth and his team.

Regina Arkwright’s costumes underlined the personalities of the cast. They were appropriate, and ,in the case of the reverend, magnificently over the top. I was disappointed however that Alice did not, after all, appear in mother’s bizarre much-feted knitted creation. Adam Greenwood worked his stage management team well and provided the wonderful stained glass projections. The many props in the capable hands of Dawn-marie Woodcock were well suited.

Without a competent Geraldine Grainger this play would  be as nothing.  Yet tonight the very epitome of the reverend was present on stage. Helena Rose grasped this gem of a part with both hands and ran with it.  She showed us all the varied emotions this character is called on to display with confidence and sincerity. 

The collection of eccentrics that make up the parish council were all played amusingly. I won’t mention them all individually but will say that every one brought a smile to my face, playing their cameos to perfection. Can you minute that please, Frank? 

Yet this is a story mainly concerned with getting Hugo and Alice up the aisle. Alice Tinker, played by Danilelle Radcliffe, was charming, vulnerable and innocent in equal measure. Nathaniel McCartney as her beau, Hugo, had the most difficult role to create. When he finally stood up to his father the audience was right behind him. Nathaniel played this moment with exactly the right timing to draw the maximum feedback. 

Well done to  Rory, Jacob, Emily and Ninah-rose as the holy little ones. 

Bacup Royal Court Theatre  is a largish venue. Directors must take careful note of this fact. Stephen Woods played most of the action down stage which worked well. He made sure his actors moved sensibly and always for a reason. In return his cast rewarded his dedication admirably. Thank you all for giving us an entertaining night out. 

God bless you, everyone!

PRM