Author: Joyce Handbury
Following on from their extremely successful production last year of the play, ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ and giving an opportunity for the original cast to be reunited, the Society decided to perform the sequel, ‘The Vicar of Dibley Christmas Special’. The script was written by Ian Gower and Paul Carpenter and features plots and scenes from the original TV series written by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer. There were three main plots in the play, which involved the hilarious antics of the vicar having to endure three Christmas lunches, the village Radio Broadcasts and the organising and staging of the outdoor Christmas Nativity play. Pauline Hindle was the epitome of the Dawn French character Geraldine, the Vicar. It is a huge role , the lynch pin of the whole play, and Pauline’s performance was just superb. Her mannerisms, facial expressions, her excellent comic timing and enthusiasm, were all brilliantly portrayed and what a wonderful array of jumpers she wore. Alison Doram was delightful as Alice, the Verger, now married to Hugo Horton. She brought out the naivety, the vulnerability, the excitability of Alice’s loving nature, exquisitely. The domineering and sarcastic David Horton, Chairman of the Parish Council, was impeccably played by Chris Heathcote and David Orange gave a heart-warming performance as Hugo, his dim-witted son with a heart of gold. A great big ‘no, no, no, no, yes’ must go to Richard Leivers brilliant interpretation of t
he dithering Jim Trott. Neil Yewman captured the pedantic and boring nature of Frank Pickle impeccably and Heath Parkin splendidly managed to both disgust and amuse with the outrageous behaviour of Owen Newitt. Sue Sidall was splendid as Letitia Cropley and good support came from Judith Doram as Mrs. Tinkler and Charlotte Gratton as Alice’s sister Mary Tinkler. The first Act was taken up with the Vicar’s uproarious visits to three Christmas lunches and the Radio Broadcasts from the village. All the lunch visits were so amusing but Pauline’s facial expressions as she pushed the last Brussels Sprout into her mouth, to beat the bet placed by David Horton when at his house, had to be seen to be believed! Radio Dibley proved to be rather more chaotic than expected (surprise, surprise) especially when Frank decided to ‘come out’ on air – a wonderfully delivered speech by Neil. Then there is the Christmas Nativity play to sort out, the auditions, casting, and rehearsals. The audition process was absolutely hilarious. Frank, a wannabe Wise Man mimicked the voice of Stephen Hawking – a ‘wise man’, Owen was strikingly dressed as Elvis for his audition as ‘the King’ and would you believe Jim came to also audition for a King dressed in a very short skirt etc. as Billie Jean King, the tennis player! His antics when trying to sit ‘respectably’ were hysterical. Hugo and Alice were eventually cast as Joseph and Mary and David turns up for the role of Herod but wants to change it slightly to make the character more likeable. The Nativity play takes place in Owen’s barn and things start going terribly awry. Forgotten lines, impromptu innuendoes, Mary being wheeled in on a trolley and to top it all, she actually goes into labour causing mayhem and more priceless goings-on. It concluded with Alice asking “Is this really Jesus?’’ and the vicar replying, “Alice, it’s a baby girl” – Alice then said, “Good clue!”. Throughout the show I found myself counting the ‘Blackouts’ of which, in my opinion, there were far, far too many. Whilst I appreciate the problems of moving from one extremely short scene to another – the very small stage was split to depict the Church Hall on one side and the vicar’s sitting room and kitchen on the other – I’m sure the audience would have looked kindly on the necessary comings and goings of the stage crew if just lighting effects had been used. This, if it were possible, would have helped considerably the flow of, in particular, the very disjointed and bitty first half of the play. Putting that aside, this exceptionally talented cast delivered a terrific night’s entertainment especially considering that Alison and Karl, the Director, were heavily involved in ‘Anything Goes’, the week before as were David and Neil to a lesser degree. So, no, no, no, no, yes, I loved it! Well done to everyone involved.