Theatre review - The Vicar of Dibley, Blackburn Empire Theatre

“The Vicar of Dibley” – Blackburn Drama Club

“The Vicar of Dibley” – Blackburn Drama Club - Credit: Archant

Blackburn Drama Club stage their production of The Vicar of Dibley at the Blackburn Empire Theatre.

Ranked in the top twenty of the greatest British sitcoms of all time, the Vicar of Dibley by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer entertained homes across the country with 12 million people all tuning in to watch. The show tells the story of Geraldine Granger, a female vicar, who comes to the village of Dibley to the unsuspecting residents who were expecting someone less feminine.

The stage version of the show written by Ian Gower and Paul Carpenter is an adaption of the television series and taking a step back from the stage to take the Director’s helm for Blackburn Drama Club was Jonathan Mallison.

One of the more difficult challenges in producing a show that is so well loved and respected is to offer the audience a true version of the humour and the characters they have grown to love and the audiences at the Blackburn Empire Theatre were not disappointed. The other challenge that Jonathan faced was how to streamline the flow of the story, complete with multiple set changes and to bring together a cast that will give it life in the way that we know best. All challenges were gracefully accepted and surpassed.

The show, as mentioned before, has varying different scenes and costume changes which can prove tricky to pass the time and not leave the audience waiting too long, but with the clever use of music in between scenes depicting the scenario just played out to us filled that void perfectly and very cleverly, playing on the lyrics of the song in the process. The flow was not interrupted, and it knitted together perfectly.

The joy of seeing a show by Blackburn Drama Club is the showcase of talent they have on hand and Jonathan has put together a strong and superb cast. The beauty of the Vicar of Dibley is not just the warm humour, but in the diverse characters of the village that make the show so special. The cast gelled well together, almost as if they were plucked straight from the TV and onto the stage.

Kate Roberts had to fill the shoes of Dawn French in her depiction of Geraldine Granger and did so in a way that not only honoured her performance but left her own mark on it as well. The warmth and humility of her performance was exciting, and she led the role well. Andrew Smith was perfect as the often-cantankerous David Horton with the suitable despondency and bad temper of the character exuding on stage. Paddy Walsh played David’s son, Hugo, in a role that was well executed perfecting Hugo’s timid nature and bashfulness. The cast were supported strongly with Clive Stack as Frank Pickle, Trevor Lord as Jim Trott, Martin Cottam as Owen Newitt and Barbara Chadwick as Letitia Cropley. All of their performances were to the highest standard and depicted the characters from the series perfectly which helped the storyline immensely. Also, we mustn’t forget the young talents of Abigail Birney, Darcy Tayler, Robert Bargh and Xander Quirk who took to the stage wonderfully and in a very determined manner in a small yet fulfilling role. One of the key relationships of the story though, is the one that Geraldine has with the verger, Alice Tinker, played by Neely Jillings and it was one of the best I have seen from her. She had the role down to perfection and it was a fitting tribute to the late Emma Chambers who played her in the TV series and who sadly passed away earlier this year. It was quite emotional to watch her performance, but purely because she played the role so well and it was if Emma were on the stage with them.

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The script from Ian Gower and Paul Carpenter is extremely funny with some wonderful lines in there. Some of the funniest from any stage play I have seen were delivered wonderfully, particularly from Martin Cottam as Owen, a role played by another late great, Roger Lloyd Pack. Martin certainly did him proud.

If you are looking for an evening of entertainment and laughter, then the Blackburn Empire Theatre is the place to be. Not only will you be getting your money’s worth, but you will also be supporting the theatre and also the wonderful talents of an amateur dramatics company who seem to get better with every show they perform.

The show continues on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th September. Curtain up at 19:30pm