Vicar of Dibley delights Littlehampton audiences

REVIEW BY Simon Cross

Maureen Ayres the director
Maureen Ayres the director

The Vicar of Dibley by Ian Gower and Paul Carpenter – Stage-Door Theatre Company, Windmill Theatre, 17th to 20th July

For three short years in the mid 1990s, Britain basked in the indisputable glory of evenings spent with The Vicar of Dibley, the Reverend Geraldine Granger. People living near Littlehampton can count themselves lucky to be able to relive some of those moments this week through the good works of The Stage-Door Theatre Company.

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This is a fine ensemble piece reminding the audience of many of their favourite moments from the original show. Strongly led by Shannon Glenister as Geraldine, the rest of the cast more or less accurately recreates their television counterparts. But the cast does more than mimic previously-created characters, they instil their own life into each and every character. Ben Sunderland and Siobhana Healy, as Hugo and Alice, agonise in their love for each other; Roz Halsey delights in knitting and cooking Mrs Cropley's famous, unique recipes, and Derek Billington, Alan Moss, Zahir White and John Croot have fun around the council table, each with his individual shining moments.

Five children - Lily Dallimore, Keira Rowley, Archie Cossins, Caio Markwick and Jack Downton - played their parts with suitable enthusiasm, both as schoolchildren answering questions on the nativity and later recreating the much-loved wedding scene. Rounding off the cast was Sara Spencer as a jilted bride.

Overseeing it all, director Maureen Ayres ensured the piece stayed true to the original without being a lifeless carbon copy.