THE title character in the television series The Vicar of Dibley is a woman who is sent to a conservative rural English community as its priest, soon after the people controlling the country’s Anglican church decided in 1992 to allow the ordination of female priests.
Given the nature of the community, her appointment meets a mixed response, with the reactions leading in the series’ episodes to much laughter.
The sit-com, created by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer, was based on the experiences of the Reverend Joy Carroll, one of England’s first female priests. And, while there were just six episodes in the 1994 first series, and only 20 overall produced until 2007, when the last was telecast, the popularity has continued, with reprises by TV networks.
Three episodes from the first and second series were adapted for the stage by Ian Gower and Paul Carpenter in 2011, with scenes from other episodes added. The play opened in London and has been a hit worldwide since.
Hamilton’s DAPA Theatre is staging The Vicar of Dibley for a three-weekend season from October 7, with Leanne Mueller as Rev Geraldine Grainger, who is a chocolate-loving rock’n’roller. Mark Spencer, who also directs, is David Horton, a stiff-lipped multi-millionaire and leader of the parish council, who initially doesn’t get on with Geraldine, seeing someone of her gender as a priest as contrary to traditional values. The other characters include David’s son, Hugo (Michael Nolan), whose behaviour is controlled by his divorced father; Alice Tinkler (Claire Thomas), an easily confused verger who is attracted to Hugo; Jim Trott (Brian Lowe), a stuttering resident who confuses all around him; Frank Pickle (Colin Campbell), the dithering parish council clerk; Owen Newitt (David Murray), a farmer and parish council member who has a “thing” for Rev Gerry; and Letitia Cropley (Cathy Maughan), a caring woman who was naughty as a child and wishes she could be again.
Leanne Mueller notes that Geraldine has been sent to Dibley to try to build up the Sunday congregations. But, as Mark Spencer points out, she arrives unannounced after the vicar who had been there for 25 years passes away. And, he says that even though the villagers might be less than welcoming, he’s sure that audiences will engage with her.
“She’s very likable.”
The action moves swiftly between three onstage venues - the parish hall meeting room, the vicarage sitting room, and the church office.
The Vicar of Dibley runs at DAPA Theatre, Hamilton, from October 7 to 21, with performances on Saturday, at 2pm and 7.30pm, Sunday, at 2pm, and Friday, at 7.30pm. Bookings: 0416 252 446.