It is never easy to recreate TV sit-coms on stage with many audiences automatically thinking of the stars they are used to and, therefore, finding it difficult to watch different people in familiar roles.
Not so with Bishopstoke Players, presenting this week Ian Gower and Paul Carpenter’s The Vicar of Dibley. The majority of their cast are both great look-alikes and sound-alikes, and a brilliant job they are making of it.
The play is crafted from several episodes throughout the series, starting with the arrival of new vicar, Geraldine, through to the wedding of Alice and Hugo.
We are treated to a wonderful cast who bring all our favourite characters to life with near pin-point accuracy. It is almost like watching the original TV cast.
The show opens with the Gospel Phonics choir singing the credits as they walk down the aisle and then move to either side of the auditorium where they sing between the scenes accompanied by Becky Griffin on keyboard.
Katie Pink (Geraldine Granger – the chocoholic Vicar) is brilliant. She looks the part and sounds exactly right, with never a miss-timed line or pause throughout the whole show.
Jennifer Pike as Alice Tinker, the verger, is also spot-on, looking and sounding like the real Emma Chambers. She has every little mannerism off pat right down to the way she moves, handling and swishing her dress around. You can see her brain working as she tries to understand the vicar’s jokes, making the audience laugh with her, rather than at her.
Other cast members also play their parts very well, each becoming facsimiles to their respective TV counterparts. Pompous David Horton (Drew Craddock) is ideal, although there are times his overbearing demeanour diminishes slightly. Horton’s silly-ass son Hugo (Hugh Johnn) acts a little too dim-witted for the role at times, but still puts in a strong performance. Dale Yarney takes on nit-picking parish clerk, Frank Pickle, becoming a great foil for Craddock. Dave Hughes is excellent as “no, no, no, yes!” Jim Trott. Owen Newitt also takes on Colin Carter brilliantly, having some of the show's best one-liners.
The whole show has been very well staged by director Louisa Asquith with some great little touches as well as co-designing the set with Jon Morgan and Angela Wallis beautifully. The main stage has become the Church hall which becomes Geraldine’s lounge for various scenes. The vestry is set on the stage-left wing and the vicar’s study on stage-right.
The show works fantastically but I personally find that scenes are much shorter, almost snippets, during the first act. This is always a problem with a script taken from a TV series. Having said that, the second act works much better because of longer scenes.
The whole show is very enjoyable, the result of a hard-working and talented theatrical society. The whole of the first night audience seemed to love the show, but did I? In the words of Jim Trott - No, no, no, no, YES!