first night

The Vicar of Dibley

Hannah Sanderson sees Ooook! Productions' annual take on a classic British sitcom.

 As I have never seen the BBC sitcom I was unsure what to expect from Ooook’s Production as I settled myself in one of the pews of the East Methodist Church, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The split stage, although simple, worked well for the setting of a country vicarage and the actors made good use of the space and entrances. The decision to stage it in a church did have its drawbacks however and I often found that, from my seat on the far left, I constantly had to crane my neck to see the action on the other side the stage. That I could only see the stage from one angle also meant that actors were often blocking each other, meaning it was often difficult to see half the cast. Was it really necessary for the actors felt the need to file on and off between every scene, even when they were in the following scene and it appeared to take place in the same setting?  They should however be commended for remaining in entirely character throughout all the scene changes.

The use of sound was simple but effective; the many different hymns kept the play firmly in its setting, whilst adding a few comic elements. The actors were all very well cast and perfectly believable. There were a few who stood out. Charlotte Thomas (Rev. Geraldine Thomas) played a hilariously sarcastic vicar, not quite in control of her somewhat eccentric parishioners. She played her part with commendable confidence, skilfully extracting the comedy from her lines. The sweet romance between Joanna Boyle (Alice Tinker) and Eugene Smith (Hugo Horton) was portrayed convincingly, particularly in their awkward mannerisms and snatched glances. Boyle’s realistic characterisation of the ditzy parish verger brought more comedy, though her delivery was occasionally a little slow so that the joke was lost.  She would be advised to bring slightly more energy to her lines and so keep her character’s pace up. The diverse array of costumes her character owned were a delight, always appearing in a different combination of slightly off-colour clothing! Wilf Wort’s (Owen Newitt) caricature of an aged farmer brought a lot of comedy to his scenes; hard work had clearly gone into his characterisation and he made the most of the physical comedy of the role as well as the lines.  At times it wasn’t clear whether the actors were unsure of the script, or whether it was the script itself that was lacking, but I often felt that I was missing some of the jokes. Some lack of involvement with the script seemed to make the play last longer than it actually did, which was a shame as there is definite potential for a much funnier performance.

Everybody should be commended on their projection, although it was sometimes difficult to see what was going on, I never missed a word. I truly believe that this play has the possibility of more comedy; there are some very strong individuals who, especially in the opening and closing scenes, who were real highlights of the show. There were occasions, however, where the concentration appeared to slip and the script became something of an obstacle to the comedy, forcing the actors to rely very heavily on the stereotypes of their characters.  With some extra pace and greater familiarity with the comedy, the next two performances will be a great success.

23 June 2016

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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