For 110 years Chesterfield Operatic Society has been airing songs of praise in much-loved musicals, so it’s fitting that the first foray into pure dramatisation is an adaptation of a popular TV religious sitcom.
This week’s production of The Vicar of Dibley at Hasland Playhouse is manna from heaven for fans of the comedy series which is currently enjoying a re-run on the goggle box.
Directed by Karl Brennan, in his debut for the society, the show flags up the company’s hitherto unseen flair for comic characterisation.
Pauline Hindle spreads warmth, joy and a touch of outrageousness as vicar Geraldine, the gin-swigging, chocaholic cleric who is parachuted into a parish populated by oddballs. She’s every bit as engaging as the infinitely more famous Dawn French and looks uncannily like the TV star.
Alison Doram gives a delightful performance as the nice, but dim, verger Alice with a convincing West Country accent and a girlish awkwardness. Much of the show revolves around her simmering relationship with the love of her life Hugo, played by David Orange.
Comedy gold comes from Richard Leivers as Jim who certainly know, know, know, knows the ropes when it comes to great characterisation, Heath Parkin as Owen, the lusty farmer who pursues the vicar and Ian Jones cast as the impatient, irascible council chairman David. Neil Yeoman plays the very precise and proper council secretary Frank with aplomb and Sue Siddall serves up a laugh or two as Letitia, the queen of strange cuisine.
The first-night audience lapped up the humour and all credit to Chesterfield Operatic Society its brave decision in trying something different.
The Vicar of Dibley continues its run at Hasland Playhouse until Saturday, May 30.
Photo by Sam Widdowson