Henry Lawson Theatre Inc: The Vicar of Dibley - Review by Daniel Conway
Have you ever done a paint and sip where you are trying to recreate a work of art? I used to find them frustrating when I tried to copy the instructions exactly. Trying to do an exact imitation of something is always going to be hard. Trying to match every brush stroke will make you doubt your ability against a master. I then learned that when you go for an impression of the thing—the feel of it, the shape of it—but fill in the details with your own choices, it starts to feel more personal, more like you. That is the key to the success of Henry Lawson Theatre Inc's production of The Vicar of Dibley. A loving recreation of a beloved story, focusing on the feel and the rhythm of the comedy, reconstructing key features, but making something wholly their own.
Henry Lawson Theatre has put together a truly ensemble cast. It is so clear that this is a cast that is enjoying being on stage together, trusting each other, and looking out for each other. Nicole Madden, who plays the titular vicar, Geraldine Granger, has the toughest job in the cast. Dawn French is iconic, and her performance of this character is very specific to her. Madden hits all of the right notes and gives her version of the character a lot of warmth. While clearly inspired by and paying homage to the original, this isn't an impersonation. Madden is a grounding force for the production, holding her space on stage, navigating the chaos, and does it all with charm. On stage for most of the runtime, Madden is a big reason this show is successful.
Two other performances I want to shine a spotlight on are Holly-Leigh Prophet and Matt Doherty as Alice Tinker and Hugo Horton. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that both of these performers steal the show. Both were so engaging and funny, and they have a physicality on stage that is so infectious. Everyone on stage was doing great, but it was undeniable how Prophet and Doherty elevated the energy of the show. At times I found myself drawn to them just reacting to things. They were so in character and did not break for a single moment. They are pure joy on that stage.
Aurel Vasilescu is phenomenal in his role as David Horton. He is the antagonist, but he has a lightness to his performance; he makes it look easy and is so lived in. Mark Prophet is so charming as Jim Trott; would I like to see him in the role again? The answer is "no, no, no, no, yes." Again, another performance I was impressed with for his ability to sustain and not break character. Rosie Crossing and Ken Fletcher are so good at reacting in character. They add depth to the scene and have some very funny lines. Elliot Prophet as Owen made me delightfully uncomfortable. He plays the role perfectly and makes some great choices with his physicality.
The last part of the cast that deserves a shout-out is the wonderful children's cast. I was lucky to see the A cast, and they all did a wonderful job. Special mention has to go to Aimee Baker-Smith, Lucas Ellul, and Mackenzie Fletcher. All three were delightful and charming in their line delivery, and they worked really well together.
It takes a village to put on a show, and led by director Rhonda Hancock, the production elements are so impressive. The set is amazing; every detail is thought out, and Mark Prophet and his whole set team should be applauded. The costume team lead by Barbara Vasilescu have replicated the costumes from the show successfully. Visually, everything is outstanding, and honestly, I don't expect anything less from Henry Lawson Theatre Inc.
If you get the chance to see Henry Lawson's production of The Vicar of Dibley, you will see a cast with a lot of heart and charm, and if you are like me, you will leave with a big smile. I give this production 4 Mars bars out of 5. Photos courtesy of Rebecca Fletcher Aurel Vasilescu