Friday 7 July 2017

The Vicar Of Dibley - Everyman Production at Cardiff Open Air Theatre 2017 - A Review


The Vicar Of Dibley - Everyman Production at Cardiff Open Air Theatre 2017 - A Review

We were delighted to be invited* to review The Vicar of Dibley an Everyman Theatre production at Cardiff Open Air Festival in Sophia Gardens. We saw Spamalot two weeks ago, which we loved, so our expectations were high.
The festival is an annual event held in the beautiful Sophia Gardens, just a stones throw from Cardiff Castle.

Richard Nichols' production of The Vicar of Dibley is based on the TV series starring Dawn French. I doubt if there are many people who have not at least heard of it.

For those who have never seen it (what really?) it is a sit-com based in the rural, fictional village of Dibley. The incumbent Vicar of Dibley dies and a new replacement arrives. The parish council, lead by the pompous David Horton, is made up of some very eccentric, but lovable characters. They are looking forward to meeting their new vicar but are shocked when not only is she a she (not a he) but she has a magnificent bosom and a wicked sense of humour.

Geraldine, the new vicar, soon wins the hearts of the council and especially of Owen, a local farmer.

Hapless Hugo and dotty Alice are in love but too silly and shy to tell each other, Geraldine becomes matchmaker and a true romance is born...

Hugo Horton (Edward Kettle), David Horton (Neil Davies) and Frank Pickle (Peter Harding-Roberts)- Dibley Parish Council

The play stayed close to the original, with references to the rich and famous of the 90s and even recreating two of the many jokes that were always at the end of each show. The Blind Man is one of my favourite jokes and Alice's reaction is a classic.

My favourite performances deserve a special mention.

Peter Harding-Roberts brought Frank Pickle from our TVs to the stage. Every mannerism, every word was Frank. Edward Kettle was suitably hapless as Hugo Horton and Sophie Lewis' portrayal of Alice was faultless. Neil Davies was booed (panto style) and cheered as he delivered a mean and then kind David Horton.

Peter Harding-Roberts as Frank Pickle

The hapless Hugo Horton ( Edward Kettle)

Alice Tinker (Sophie Lewis), endearingly silly 

But the standout performance and star of the show was Stephen Lurvey as the farmer Owen Newitt. Every appearance brought the audience to shrieks of laughter. He was perfect in the role and set the stage alight. His voice was clear and loud, his dialogue suitably rude and so funny. Lots of toilet humour, done perfectly.

Geraldine (Fiona Porter-Smith) and Owen Newitt (Stephen Lurvey)

Owen looks on as Hugo and Alice practise kissing

The audience around me loved the show, they laughed at the jokes and groaned at the correct places. They booed the bad guys (well just David Horton) and clapped at the best bits.

I found the first half of the show a bit flat, for me it didn't quite hit the mark. I was definitely alone in this as Mr P next to me loved it, and so did the audience judging by their laughter and applause.

Most of the action took place on either the right or the left side of the stage and we were seated far left. I found it hard to hear all the dialogue when the action was on the right hand side of the stage especially when the breeze rustled the canvas that covered the seating area. I haven't noticed this in previous productions and it would not stop me from going again, it was a very minor issue and seemed to be better after the interval.

After the interval the pace picked up and more action was centre stage. I joined in the laughter and applause. It was an enjoyable evening. We had perfect weather, warm and sunny and the moon came out in all it's glory.

Sophia Gardens is the perfect place to hold an Open Air Theatre. It is so easy to get to and very central. There are numerous place to have a drink and pre-show food, we had an excellent meal at Number10, a boutique hotel and restaurant on Cathedral Road just a minutes walk from the venue.

If you prefer to have food and drink at the venue, The Grazing shed is at this years Open Air Festival serving burgers from 6.30pm. I love that the tables are decorated on the theme.

When is it happening and How do I get tickets?

The festival runs from June 22 to July 29 at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, CF11 9XR.
The Vicar of Dibley (July 6 to 15)
Macbeth (July 20 to 29)
Aladdin (July 22 to 29)
Twelfth Night; the youth theatre's production (July 23)

Tickets are now on sale at or box office 0333 666 3366.

*We received complimentary tickets for the purpose of a review. All opinions are honest and my own.



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