Vicar of Dibley proves a jocular delight
The Vicar of Dibley by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer Directed by Joy McDonald for Manawatu Theatre Society Globe Theatre September 3 – 12 Reviewed by Richard Mays
Christine Taylor-Hausman is a delightful deadringer for the famous Vicar of Dibley character created by Dawn French. This production based on the longrunning British TV series, is chock-full of memorable imitations in a faithful reincarnation of the popular character-rich comedy.
The challenge with presenting something this well-known, is making it authentic enough not to disappoint the devotees, and this certainly doesn’t disappoint. The cast cleverly preserve the ethos of a close-knit parochial English church community with all its petty parish politics not to mention its prickly and provocative personalities.
The stage show melds together episode one of the original series, which understandably sees the arrival of Geraldine as Dibley’s first female cleric, and ends with the engagement and wedding of dippy verger Alice Tinker to the awkward Hugo Horton.
And in Sophie Belcher as the ‘‘brain by-passed’’ Alice, the show has its second star. Between Geraldine’s beaming visage, occasionally tempered by idiosynchratic gurning and facial contortions, and Alice’s spazzy physical, mental and verbal gymnastics, this pair are quite capable of carrying the comedy off on their own.
They don’t have to though, because their fellow cast members on the single set that spills across several locations, complement their leads completely.
Off to a slightly slow start, the sitcom steadily builds helped along by this menage of singlar characters and good flow between scenes.
There’s Ken Benn’s overbearing and self-important David Horton, Dan Mateer’s semi-vacant Jim Trott, Dylan Irvin’s aspergic Hugo, the uncouthness of Phillip Connors’ farmer yokel Owen Newitt and John Adams’ Frank Pickle.
And the good thing about any of these potentially scene-stealing roles is that they are all successfully kept under control, all working with the production. It’s this cohesion of characters along with a remarkable fluency of presentation that assists the production’s credibility.
Among the comments picked up from the audience came this overheard gem: ‘‘This is better than the TV show’’. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t really matter.
Director Joy McDonald has done a fine job of crafting a disciplined stand-alone production that successfully captures enough of the nuances to make this a rather jolly night out.
Christine Taylor-Hausman as the Reverend Boadicea Geraldine Grainger in the Manawatu Theatre Society production of The Vicar of Dibley at the Globe. Photo: WARWICK SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ