There were no curtains at all on the opening set of this funny, clever play based on the TV series, Vicar of Dibley. “Christmas the Second Coming” is a follow-on from Tea Tree Players’ successful production of “The Vicar of Dibley” in 2022.
In case you don’t know about this funny English television series of 20 or 30 episodes, the action is set in the fictional Oxfordshire village of Dibley in England, which is assigned a female vicar following the 1993 changes in the Church of England that permitted the ordination of women; it is full of jokes, innuendoes and wonderful English humour.
From the programme notes of the director, Robert Andrews, “the timeline of the production follows the format of the TV show with scene swapping between the Parish Hall and the Vicarage”. So the stage was split in half. The right hand side was the Parish Hall and on the left hand side was the Vicarage living room. There was an invisible wall between them both and the action moved backwards and forwards, sometimes in the same space consecutively, and sometimes separately swapping from one to the other. There were lots of short vignettes, some clever and funny, and others were whimsical, and some were thought provoking.
The first Act was ‘Radio Dibley’ and the second Act was based on the ‘Christmas Nativity Special’ episodes.
The only difference I could ascertain from last year’s production of the Vicar of Dibley was the set – the walls of the Vicarage were green in the last production and this time they were red, probably for the Christmas theme, a nice segue. Well done Damon Hill and Robert Andrews.
The wonderful thing that hadn’t changed was all the actors played exactly the same roles as last year.
Katie Packer playing the vacuous blonde Alice Tinker was SO funny! Her accent was always impeccable and she stole just about every scene she was in, particularly the “virgin birth”!
Lesley Main even looked like Geraldine Granger, otherwise known as the Vicar of Dibley. On Opening Night she seemed to be soft and gentle in Act One, but in Act 2, she became louder, more assertive and of course, witty and funny all the time. She is such a quick-change artist, with frequent change of costumes; we especially loved her signature white jumper with black crosses. Well done to Jo Allenby, Barry Hill and the Monday Club for costume variety.
Tom Moore acted as David Horton, the dour, sour father of the groom and grandfather-to-be. He looked stunningly handsome as Herod in his little goatee moustache. Adrian Heness as Hugo Horton, the bumbling son, was, as usual, very well expressed, especially with his physical movements. Damon Hill was outstanding as the shy Frank Pickle, who has difficulty speaking up, except on Radio Dibley where he reveals his Big Secret. Tim Cousins, funny as ever, is the sex-crazy Jim Trott. Kathy Oldfield as the weird cooking fanatic Leticia Cropley who came up with delicacies like the Marmite Cake and was an interesting Shepherd in the Nativity. Finally John Hudson was quite the English country farmer as Owen Newitt.
The acting and direction were excellent. All the actors are seasoned players and had the added benefit of playing the same character one year earlier. And the jokes and the questions and answers like “What is the capital of France?” Alice’s worry about “tinselitis” was very funny too. Look out for the nod to Sean Bean, as he’s an interesting part of the show.
Mike Phillips’ lighting was excellent. There was no curtain so the furniture and props were moved around in semi darkness mostly, very easily. Although we’re still trying to work out whether the two people that covered the sofa up for the nativity play were purposefully unfolding it improperly or whether that was an accident. In a play like this you can never tell!
Beth Venning’s properties were excellent. There were so many props to be organized, she now has an assistant Janet Lowe so they obviously had a very busy production.
The sounds and special effects by Mike Phillips were very effective – lots of songs in between the short scenes, Radio Dibley sound effects and also the Nativity Play music. The singing was excellent, especially the Vicar’s voice which soared in the Christmas carols.
The audience reaction was very encouraging and appreciative, with lots of laughter, enthusiasm and clapping. We got most of the jokes apart from a few of them which were too fast to be caught. Although this program is sold out, there might be one or two odd seats to get in. It is very funny and very clever. So I highly recommend the 2023 Tea Tree Players great production of “A Vicar of Dibley Christmas the Second Coming”. Well done Robert and the cast and Team!