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The Community of Hungerford Theatre Company - The Vicar of Dibley

7th to 8th June and 29th September to 6th October 2018

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Dibley revisited in sit-com nostalgia

Community of Hungerford Theatre Co: The Vicar of Dibley, at Herongate Centre, Hungerford, on Thursday, June 7, and Friday, June 8

Perhaps it's inevitable that TCOHTC would base their characters on those in the very popular long-running TV sit-com (1994-1998 plus 'specials' until 2007). Maria Hiscock produced a close replica of Dawn French as Geraldine Grainger, the vicar who comes to an Oxfordshire village that has the villagers from hell to deal with.

Roushka Westall was also impressive in her close approximation to the late Emma Chambers who made the part of Alice her own. So, too, with the other familiar characters; Tim Beckwith as David Horton, Guy Parkes as Hugo and Tessa Brown as Mrs Cropley all closely resembling, in appearance and voices, their TV counterparts.

Finding your own voice, character and mannerisms is important in a part, but I understand why director David Clayton attempted to recreate the characters familiar to the audience. Even to the extent of adding padding to costumes.

That said, the play got off to a flying start, the acting was spot-on all round and the laughter rang out in the theatre from start to curtain call. The jokes were lifted seamlessly from the series but it did, often, show up the age of the sketches – Gordon Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer? Some of the jokes could have done with an upgrade too: "He was kissing a woman who wasn't his wife. Who was she? His mother." I'm surprised nobody said "boom boom" after that one.

And the long ramble about naming a road 'old road' 'nearly new road' and 'fairly new road', but with somebody suggesting 'Pratt's Lane' probably worked better on television if that is where it originated.

The Curtis/Mayhew-Archer scripts were adapted for the stage by Hoffi Munt and having five choirgirls and a choirboy dancing, singing and moving furniture and props between sketches was a clever touch.

Not so clever was moving table and chairs backwards and forwards through 34 short sketches; it might have been worth considering leaving the furniture in position and lighting the acting areas as required. It would still have left plenty for the animated choir to do.

But these are small niggles in what was a well-paced, very well acted show, in which every single character had a chance to shine – and did.