The Vicar of Dibley
at DAPA Theatre, Hamilton
Ends October 21
MY wife and I didn’t see The Vicar of Dibley television series, but the laughter and applause of audience members at this stage adaptation showed they had. We found it amusing, and at home I downloaded a couple of episodes we saw onstage. I was impressed by how the British adaptive writers and the DAPA actors and stage team recreated the characters and settings and the nature of the comedy.
Leanne Mueller is a delight as the title character, Rev Geraldine Grainger, who is here one of the first women to become a vicar in 1990s England, with her appointment initially upsetting a staid rural community. While she is determined not to be pushed to one side by the parish church council because of her sexuality, she is very much a person of modern times, demanding that a planned week of local radio programming must contain songs by rock performers including The Carpenters, and, while initially not being prepared to take part in colourful Easter functions, joining others in wearing a bunny suit.
Mark Spencer (who also directed) is the pompous and intolerant millionaire head of the church parish council, David Horton, who is only willing to do good deals when they benefit him. A divorce that relegated him to caring for his young son has made him very demanding of the now adult Hugo (Michael Nolan), who is attracted to the female verger, Alice Tinker (Claire Thomas), but tries to keep his affection hidden from his father. The interactions between Hugo and Alice, who is a few sandwiches short of a picnic, raise smiles, as does Alice’s incomprehension of Geraldine’s amusing and pointed jokes.
Cathy Maughan, as Letitia Cropley, a caring woman who provides the snacks for the parish council meetings, has a rather eccentric creativity, with the pancakes she makes including ingredients such as liver and her putting pineapple pieces among the flowers in church decorations. Brian Lowe repeatedly raises laughs with his Jim Trott’s stuttering “no, no, no, no . . .”, even when he agrees with what is being said; Colin Campbell’s pedantic and eccentric parish council clerk, Frank Pickle, is amusingly dithering; and David Murray’s farmer, Owen Newitt, makes the man’s lack of hygiene and recurring bowel problems raise broad smiles. Mark Spencer’s direction ensures that the action transfers swiftly between three venues in and around the Dibley church.
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Newcastle Theatre Company,
at NTC Theatre, Lambton
Ends October 21
THIS adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy by a Sydney theatre company head, Damien Ryan, is certainly a crowd-pleaser in Newcastle director Richard Murray’s production. The large cast is engaging, clad in colourful Victorian garb, as a new young king of Navarre, who has sworn off women for three years while he studies, forces his three offsiders to comply with his decision.
A French princess who arrives to discuss a border issue and her trio of ladies in waiting are understandably unhappy about being banished to a tent in a paddock, so that the men won’t be tempted to break their vows. But the women amusingly show themselves to be more adept than the men at getting what they want, something that wasn’t often seen on stage in Shakespeare’s day.
Adaptor Damien Ryan’s transformation of one of the king’s men into a woman who disguises herself as a man because she is unhappy about the way women are pushed to one side is a relevant change at this time, especially as the disguised girl and one of the princess’s attendants are attracted to each other. Ryan’s changes also include the use of several classic songs to make comments on the characters and their situations.
Derek Fisher’s initially stern King Ferdinand has to put up with the sceptical remarks and mockery of Hadrian Le Goff’s assistant Biron, with Nicholas Watson’s less adept Dumain clearly pleased when he can take Biron down a peg or two. And Gabriella Chamberlain’s Longaville, the woman in disguise, has even more skill in putting Biron in his place. The initially unhappy and largely silent French women - Tegan Gow’s Princess Margot, Madeline Valentinis’ Rosaline, Annalie Hamilton’s Katherine, and Maddy Lardner’s Maria – have a wit the men don’t expect, amusingly besting them when wearing clownish masks, with the king and his helpers dressed as Russians in thick coats, but so inept that their identities are evident.
The other colourful characters include: a laugh-raising Spanish braggart, Don Armado (Michael Blaxland), whose dandy nature is reflected in his elaborate attire; Moth (Millie Chorlton), his quick-witted page; Jaquenetta (Marjorie Butcher), a bluntly worded country wench who is pursued by Don Armado and others; Costard (Stephanie MacDonald), a voracious court attendant; Holofernes (John Franks), a teacher who is snooty about his ability to tellingly use language; Lady Nathalia (Fiona Morrison), the local curate who ignores people when they note that her statements are incorrect; and Constable A. Dull (Renee Thomas), a constable who bluntly tells people he can’t understand them when they use high-faluting language.