Donna Yeats played Vicar Geraldine Granger and captured all the nuances and expressions of Dawn French really well.
OPINION: Peals of laughter, hoots of delight, heartfelt sighs of empathy, lots of cheering, whistling and applause resonated around New Plymouth Little Theatre throughout the opening night’s performance of The Vicar of Dibley Christmas Special.
The light-hearted, comic frivolity seemed to be just what local audiences wanted in these uncertain Covid times. An entertaining farmyard nativity scene, complete with the birth of baby Jesus, certainly made many aware that Christmas will soon be here.
This stage version of the 1990s British sitcom, (which starred Dawn French), is written by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer. It has been adapted locally for stage by Stella McCallum, who also co-directs the show with Mary Barron.
I sat in the audience with some Vicar of Dibley/Dawn French fans. They confessed they were currently watching reruns of the television series at their home. They were delighted by this onstage interpretation of both their well-loved show and actress.
They felt Donna Yeats, who played Vicar Geraldine Granger, had captured all the nuances and expressions of Dawn French really well. I agreed. She certainly looked the part. Her superb acting led the way to ‘cement’ the characters of the many other delightful cameo roles.
It would have been easy to overact these comical parts. However, the cast had just the right balance. They conveyed all the quirkiness and idiosyncrasies of the various personalities with a great blend of comedy and skill so as the audience enjoyed all the silly humour of the script’s banter.
Suzy Adair and Brad Duynhoven definitely showed the naivety and innocence of Alice Tinker and Hugo Horton. John Lawson, John Collings and Terry Darby made a tight threesome of naughtiness, hesitance and confusion.
They seemed to revel in their roles, appearing to have as much fun as the audience with the chaos they created. Glenys Horsfall, as Letitia Cropley, knitted and baked her way through the bedlam with amusing antics.
Alex McDougall played gruff David Horton, who soon revealed a softer side. Bryan Vickery quickly changed from lover-boy to the baddie of the show as he broke Geraldine’s heart. Youngsters Eddie Yeats and Sophie Adair added some beautiful singing to the mix.
There were a lot of scene changes, but these were handled really well so as the action kept flowing without a hitch. The cleverly designed sets were very realistic and were highlighted by effective lighting and a video screen.
Tolling bells and church music added to the sound effects. The costuming and props (particularly the large signs) were fun. The nativity scene had some special touches with gumboots, a rolling donkey and quirky camels.
The Vicar of Dibley Christmas Special creates ‘quite a heavenly evening’ of entertainment. It’s a cracker of a show to celebrate the end of the year.
However, the season for this play at New Plymouth Little Theatre is already sold out, so you may feel as jilted as Geraldine that you have probably missed out on the action.