Reviews of 'The Vicar of Dibley'
Reviews of 'The Vicar of Dibley'
Review by Martin Tyrrell
It’s a daunting task for any company, amateur or professional, to take a much-loved sitcom and present it for the stage. St Nicolas Players took up the challenge with their production of Vicar of Dibley.
Set around two locations, the Village Hall and the Vicarage, the play was mostly a series of set pieces, featuring the local Parish Council meetings, and conversations around the vicar’s sitting room. This was a long play, and this limitation could have affected the flow of the piece, but the pace of the cast, along with the extremely funny writing of Richard Curtis, managed to keep the audience laughing.
Overall, the cast was strong, and looked to be enjoying themselves. One of the hardest tasks of the night was undertaken by Alison Honeybun, who played Geraldine Grainger, a role firmly embedded in our collective memory by that most brilliant of comediennes, Dawn French. Despite not having the (dubious) advantage of Ms. French’s physical attributes, (which certainly helped in any joke involving chocolate!), Geraldine delivered her lines with that trademark acerbic dry humour, and quickly made the role her own.
Simon Temple played the nice but dim Hugo Horton, son to the fearsome David Horton, leader of the Parish Council, and sweetheart to the even dimmer Alice Tinker. Simon resisted the temptation to copy James Fleet, who played the TV original, and he gave us his own excellent version.
Alice, his romantic other half, played by local teacher Amber Sinclair, stunned the audience with a pitch perfect rendition of her character. It was hard not to feel that the original actress, Emma Chambers, had turned up for the occasion.
There were very good performances from the supporting members of the cast, most notably Jed Laxton as the pedantic Frank Pickle, and Nigel Hancocks, who delighted us with a brilliant rendition of Jim Trott.
The finale, with Hugo and Alice’s wedding, was truly funny, the costumes looked great, and the set, with the beautiful stained glass windows looked lovely. Added to this, some beautiful singing from Act II and St Mary’s Church Choir, and some truly funny and touching moments from the children in the cast gave us a really enjoyable night at the theatre.
Charlotte Gernert, Act II Theatre Company
I am in an unusual position, being asked to review a production I have been involved with: directing one of the choirs who sang pre-show, and also chaperoning the children who took part. However, this has given me a unique insight: normally I review merely what an audience sees. Amateur dramatics are a flourishing hobby for many people from all walks of life and therefore why shouldn’t a review of one of their productions be as much about the whole process. For that reason, I would like to start by saying I find St. Nicholas Players to be a lovely, friendly, welcoming company, who work as a team. There was no arrogance – it was an ensemble effort both on and off stage (every night I heard them all congratulating each other, and cast thanking the backstage team). Whenever I was at rehearsals they were all having lots of fun. Rob Nicholls, the director should be applauded for creating this (even if I do think he shouted a couple of times unnecessarily in the dress rehearsals!). This translated onto the stage; the energy among the performers was perfection. I am a firm believer that even if you have the best performers, if there is not a good feeling among the group, the audience won’t believe the production onstage. I think it speaks volumes about the St. Nic’s atmosphere that they had the audience eating out of their hands.
And so to the production itself. I must be honest; as a theatrical director I question this type of theatre – is it necessary to have amateur performers imitating roles created by trained, professional (and exceptionally talented) actors? Why go to such a performance when you can watch the original on dvd at home? Is there an implication that it can be done better? (Personally I think Dawn French and the rest of the original cast had it pretty much perfect). However, mine is not to debate the merits of the choice but to analyse the outcome. Furthermore, their audience numbers were excellent and it would be churlish of me not to acknowledge that I am in a minority with this opinion, at least in South Holland!
I suppose you have to make a decision as to whether you wish to imitate or put your own spin on it. I think I would agree with Rob that an imitation is the right thing to do (and what people want to see). Therefore, the stand out performance for me was by Nigel Hancocks, who played Jim Trott. The nuances to his performance were timed to perfection; one could be forgiven for thinking it was Trevor Peacock making his debut Spalding stage performance. I found myself watching him most in all scenes. However, everyone played their parts well; it struck me that they had the right people in all the roles rather than any best fit.
I would also like to make mention of Alison Honeybun, who played the Vicar: Geraldine Granger. I think she is a great actress, and therefore I found it frustrating that I couldn’t shake Dawn French’s voice and intonation from my head (I have clearly watched the TV series far too many times). I really look forward to seeing her in a role which she has created herself; I think she would really shine.
I loved the use of the stained-glass windows in the set and the lighting through them. They helped to transport the audience to Dibley. The idea of the choirs singing before the show and during the interval – melting into the production by singing Howard Goodall’s Psalm 23 (the original theme music), was extremely effective. It was moments such as these that made me think that Rob Nicholls had directed this production, rather than put his cast in front of the TV and told them to copy. I wish more amateur directors took decisions such as these. Theatre should always be something new and fresh – for me, theatre’s beauty is it’s liveness and originality.
I will conclude by saying this production was slick, well-rehearsed and natural; of its type it was very good. The company are all so friendly, I so enjoy not only seeing their work, but as on this occasion, having the opportunity to be part of their team.
Thank you St Nic’s!