Bert the black sheep adopted by Sir John Thursby High School was on his best behaviour when he made his stage debut this week.
The cross-bred baa lamb, who appeared in the Burnley Express recently when the school took him in when he was abandoned by his mum, was in a starring role again in the famous animal service scene from TV classic “The Vicar of Dibley”.
The stage version of this TV gold is being presented at Pendle Hippodrome Theatre this week by the theatre company – and Bert was perfectly stage trained. Or as Jim from the series would say, no no no no no no yes he was!
The scene where new vicar of Dibley Geraldine Granger holds a service for the village animals not only included Bert, but two real rabbits and a spaniel. Unfortunately the goat who was also due to appear apparently suffered an attack of stage fright and did not make it.
This was just one of the fun scenes in this play, with music, being presented until Saturday, with Angela Boult taking on the hefty role so hilariously made her own by comedy actress Dawn French. Not an easy act to follow, but Angela gave it her all and was very good as the chocolate eating, man-loving vicar who upsets the residents of Dibley who were expecting their new incumbent to be a man. But she soon wins them over and Angela brought out her fun but caring side rather well. Her hilarious asides with dippy verger Alice were especially funny.
Huge plaudits must go to Georgina Smith who played Alice Tinker so hilariously. As soon as she spoke the audience laughed because she was spot on with her accent, her look and her mannerisms, never once faltering. Her almost as dippy boyfriend Hugo was also hugely funny thanks to Josh Hindle who played him so well, really mastering the character.
Next in line with the comedy value was Damian Marsh who made his debut on the Hippodrome stage as the dithering Jim Trott best known for his no, no, no, no catchphrase that has TV viewers rocking in their armchairs. The 100-plus opening night audience on Tuesday weren’t exactly laughing in the aisles but really appreciated Damian’s excellent take on this lovable character. Ken Horsfield puts in a splendid portrayal of vulgar farmer Owen, one of the parish councillors who soon come to love their spirited new vicar. Barry Jackson plays country gent David Horton, self-styled village elder and parish council chairman, who tries unsuccessfully to rid the village of, in his eyes, the closest thing to Satan – a woman vicar! His brother Simon, played by Stevan Manley, has other ideas, however, as he finds Geraldine (call me Gerry) rather attractive. Other parish councillors are Orme Green as Frank Pickle and Andrea Jackson as Letitia Cropley and we also have an assorted collection of villagers and choir singers popping in and out as the story progresses.
It is obviously not easy condensing the best bits of a whole TV series into one stageplay, but the Hippodrome are giving it a good go. The never-ending scene changes are rather offputting though and do detract from the enjoyment. Having said that, there is lots of fun, a novelty wedding and some surprises from director Fiona Thompson’s experienced cast.
“The Vicar of Dibley” runs until Saturday at 7-30pm at Colne’s Hippodrome. Pay on the door or call 863210.