More Tea Vicar? Review: The Vicar of Dibley @ People's Theatre

Caitlin Rawlings reviews a theatre adaption of The Vicar of Dibley at the People's Theatre.

Caitlin Rawlings
4th October 2019
Photo by Jack Thompson
The hit 90s show The Vicar of Dibley always reminds me of my Mother and her best friend sitting on the sofa cackling away at Dawn French and pining after Richard Armitage. This well-loved British sitcom first aired between 1994 and 1998 which was before I was even born. The narrative regards a small fictional village named Dibley which is assigned a rather unusual female vicar named Geraldine Granger. 

Prior to arriving at People’s Theatre, I had my preconceptions. I always associated the show with a slightly older demographic and assumed the humour would not appeal to a younger audience. I could not imagine any other actress playing Geraldine but Dawn French. However, I was intrigued to see how Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer had managed to adapt the original TV series for the stage. 

As I took my seat inside the theatre, I was immediately struck by the detail of the proscenium stage. I was thrilled at the sight of the epic naturalistic set. So often theatres choose to leave much to the imagination of the audience, thus the set of many contemporary pieces remains sparse. Consequently, I was delighted at the sight of the complex set presenting two sitting rooms and a church meeting room. 

"Petley was wonderfully witty and as rebellious as French in her portrayal of the character."

As the lights began to dim and the audience fell silent, I sat intrigued at the sight of the ensemble appearing from the wings. The chorus was composed by individuals from the People’s Choir who varied in age which gave the piece an authentic community feel. Within minutes the sudden death of Reverend Pottle, played by Alan Potts, sent the play hurtling into comedic chaos. Multiple audience members could barely contain their laughter as Reverend Pottle was whisked away in his wheelchair. I waited in anticipation to meet Geraldine Granger as I hoped she would be as coarse and unrefined as Dawn French’s portrayal of the character. The moment actress Kirstie Petley burst onto the stage as the new Vicar of Dibley I was convinced that she was the woman for the job. Petley was wonderfully witty and as rebellious as French in her portrayal of the character. I was overjoyed that she bought a more controversial style of humour to the performance which appealed to the younger audience members. 

The relationship between Alice Tinker and Hugo Horton provided numerous cries of laughter. Alison Carr and Robbie Close brilliantly took on the roles of the naïve pair of star-crossed lovers. The moment in which the pair shared their first kiss which lasted for several scenes was to be commended. The play concluded with their rather peculiar wedding which starred two Teletubbies charging down the aisle. 

"The performance was brilliantly bizarre and something I would recommend to anyone who loves the original 90s sitcom."

The performance was brilliantly bizarre and something I would recommend to anyone who loves the original 90s sitcom. As a whole it lasted for 2 hours 35 minutes including a 20-minute interval which is rather long for a theatre performance. I think that the show attempted to squeeze multiple episodes of the sitcom into one performance. If certain scenes which added little to the overall plot were cut, then the show would have had the perfect running time. Overall, there was a real sense of adoration for the performance amongst audience members as the show managed to do justice by a sitcom that remains loved by many.

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