Vicar of Dibley NODA Review

ST NEOTS PLAYERS’ HEAVENLY OFFERING
AWE INSPIRING PERFORMANCES ABOUND

Hallelujah! A thoroughly fabulous night out! The Vicar of Dibley was a truly heavenly experience for all who were present.
The whole cast was superb and managed to recreate the beloved characters from the television series with real accuracy and heart. Their voices, characteristics, gestures, body language all reflected the characters that we are all so fond of and so familiar with. It was at times hard to differentiate from the original TV series because they were so perfect.

And yet, many such TV adaptations on stage have failed to engage an audience beyond the first few minutes of novelty. Here, adept and empathetic direction by Ian Francis with his keen eye for comic timing and variety of pace ensured that this would have worked as a strong comedy even if people were unaware of the source material.

Costumes and props were skillfully created and were one with the performers: not an easy feat and they really added to each of the uncannily accurate and inspired performances. The stage crew worked tirelessly throughout with an army like precision and kept the smooth running of the play on schedule. The lighting and sound were seamless and the effect of the auditorium being transformed into a church caused gasps from the audience.

The choir provided by The St Neots Singers proved to be a brilliant addition to the production and added to the smooth running of the set changes and the whole evening. They sang the whole repertoire beautifully and their appearance, focus and singing was extremely professional. A special honourable mention to their Musical Director, Martin Gilman, as he kept an eye on the show and underscored any moments that needed extra seconds.

I have to come back to the actors who were excellent and I know many professional companies that wouldn’t have been able to achieve the same standard of performances. The energy never dropped and special mention must go to Ian Worsfold who played Hugo to perfection and Kay Young who played Geraldine so beautifully…with real heart. Both players knew how to deliver dialogue in a natural and understated way whilst retaining the comic timing and delivery required.

That being said, performances were uniformly excellent. Kay Young’s Geraldine was fabulous and was taken aback by the likeness to Dawn French before being won over by the warmth of this portrayal at the centre of the play. Richard Fitt was a solid, stolid, pedantic Frank just as he should be providing us with an outstanding portrayal of a sensitive man. Heike Riddle as Alice was exceptional with a somewhat different look from the original but so convincing, very natural and therefore very touching. Ian Worsfold as Hugo totally embodied Hugo’s characteristics and gave us a stunning star turn. Don McKay as Jim Trott was wonderfully consistent with the eccentricities of speech and manner providing many of the myriad laughs. Paul Riddy in the potentially unappealing part of Owen Newitt was appealing and charismatic. Keith Popely as David Horton displayed all the boorish aspects of the ‘straight man’ role whilst making us feel empathy for the unsympathetic role. Linda Riddy’s Letitia who will, hopefully, not be appearing on Bake Off’s next series provided us with many laughs as her recipes became increasingly bizarre. Belinda Hicks as the woman delivered one of the comedic highlights in the ‘Jane Eyre’ moment of the wedding. The children showed effective stage presence and potential for the future.

If I have any constructive criticism for an immaculate play it is that all the actors should work to achieve the natural rhythms and cadences of speech which produce truth in performance.

The multi episodic play covering Geraldine’s arrival, the plot to get rid of her, David’s attempts to break up Alice and Hugo, Owen’s wooing of Geraldine and Alice and Hugo’s wedding would have been very fragmented indeed were it not for the seamless scene stages of an excellent set designed by Dave Winfield and team and the superb effects run by Dave and Kate Maltby.:the church scene was very fine indeed. Hugo and Alice deserved our applause for not only playing the charming, scatty and outrageous couple so perfectly and so genuinely but also for the longest stage kiss I have ever witnessed. (There may be an opportunity to put it in the Guinness Book of Records.)  The audience standing to applaud one of their best shows from a company on miraculous form really summed up the feeling of everyone.

I thank St Neots’ front of house team for their warm welcome, congratulate Tim Powers and Christine Suggars on terrific poster and programme design and look forward to the next offering from the St. Neots Players.

I was delighted to see this wonderful show. Hallelujah!

Tina Doyle
NODA EAST Youth Adviser
Edited by District 1 East rep, Sandra Samwell