Denys Edward Players’ A Vicar of Dibley Christmas – 1 December 2022, Library Theatre

Review by Leah Rhodes-Burch

The Vicar of Dibley Christmas follows all the favourite and much-loved characters of Dibley as they prepare for their Christmas Show: The Nativity.

What strikes you first is the fantastic set. DEP never fail to produce life-like backdrops that fit perfectly on the stage and for the show. This automatically draws the audience in and sets the stage perfectly for the drama about to unfold. 

This heart-warming and joyful production provides not only a lot of laughs, from the odd titter to full-filled belly laughs, but it captures the poignancy of the personal lives of the characters on stage that can be sure to reach the audience on some personal level. 

Marc Vestey and Chrissy Lowry are wonderfully matched as lovestruck Hugo and Alice, they have great chemistry which is evident from their scenes together. There is a naturalness about their performances that ensures the character’s naivety does not become a caricature and is endearing to the audience creating a genuine level of empathy for the pair as they embark on the next chapter of their relationship. 

Rob Calnan plays the pompous David Horton with such conviction, even at the character’s worst you can’t help but laugh at the serious side of him and his determination to win at all costs. 

Michael Bullock who plays Jim Trott has such a great stage presence, and you are completely drawn to him when he is on stage. He has wonderful comic timing and provides some of the best funny moments of the night and arguably the best costumes! 

Richard Bevan portrays Owen Nevitt with unapologetic comedic timing, adding perfectly to the character and allowing his sharp opinions to be naturally funny. His impression of Elvis will catch you completely off guard for all the right reasons. 

Sue Cox as Letitia Cropley is perfect, she’s capturing the essence of Letitia with her warmth and unobtrusive nature, popping up with funny off-the-cuff stories that help to keep the comedy warm and inviting. 

For me a highlight of the show was Frank played wonderfully by Charles Ibberson. During a very honest and thought-provoking speech, you are drawn into the private life of the character that is very emotionally raw, as he opens up to his friends about his personal life, through the means of radio. I feel I wasn’t the only person to shed a tear during this speech and one of the most natural pieces of acting I have seen.   

A special mention must be made to ‘The Children’ Connor Hibbert and Maisie Baxter who played excellent cameos throughout and sparkling angels with buckets and I defy anyone not to put some money in their collection buckets at the end of the show…

Now to The Vicar herself, Joanne Ringrose. Taking on an iconic role there is always a trap to fall into mimicking the actor who portrays the part, which audiences know and love. Joanne does not do this in the slightest. Her comic timing and natural wit have a nod to Dawn French whilst making Geraldine completely her own. She has a wonderful stage presence and plays her with such selflessness that it proves Geraldine is the glue to this wonderful group of people that make up the Dibley congregation.  

While keeping the essence of the Vicar of Dibley, Andrew Hibbert provides natural direction, and the show seamlessly flows throughout. He allows each character to shine without fuss which adds to the ease of the show. The production was excellent, and nothing could be faltered with a big nod to those who work tirelessly backstage too. Brilliant evening.

If you want an evening at the theatre that will warm your cockles this December evening/afternoon then head to the Library Theatre tonight or Saturday matinee for this excellent, heart-warming and laugh-out-loud comedy! You will not be disappointed. 

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