‘Don’t Get Your Vicars In A Twist’ was inspiring.
One of the most inspiring aspects of community theatre is that it becomes a rallying ground when things go wrong, or the unexpected happens. This was the case for the cast of ‘Don’t Get Your Vicars In A Twist’ when they had to have a new cast member step in (Amy Westman as Vicar Caroline Timerlake), and another cast member switch roles (Betsy Appelhof as Mrs Maddie Forbes), with limited notice prior to opening. Both young actors stepped into their new positions with relish and should both be highly commended for their actions.
The play itself is a laugh a minute romp, modelled on a one-room farce. The local Vicar goes away to a conference, and the Church Warden hires out the vicarage to an acting troupe for a murder mystery weekend. He intends to use the money to pay for his daughter’s extravagant wedding. All is going fine until the Bishop arrives for a meeting with the Vicar and chaos ensues. It is a wonderfully fast-paced comedy with plenty of mistaken identities, drunkenness, debauchery, and even a little cross-dressing thrown in for good measure.
Director William McCreery-Rye made a meal out of the script, keeping the show moving along at a gallop. It may have benefitted the production to take momentary beats to allow is audience time to catch their breath in the dizzying, and incredibly wordy plot. But this was a small consideration to make, as the cast performed energetically under McCreery-Rye’s watching direction.
As the aforementioned Vicar, Amy Westman was fresh-faced and thoroughly believable. Even with a script in hand, she barely made reference to it, and appeared on stage several times without it at all, speaking to her keen abilities as an actor. Westman brought a neat style and grace to the small role and set up the show capably.
Gary Kliger as George Williams, the scheming Warden of the parish church, was a delight. His high energy performance galvanised the audience and held them throughout the twists and turns of the play, and in so many ways he was the absolute standout. It would have been nice to see a little light and shade injected into the pace of his delivery, however, as the speed was so constant that it became a little hard to keep up with after a while. Kliger’s work with the constantly downtrodden Nick Cockroft, who played Alan Palmer, was thoroughly charming, and some of the best partner work of the night.
With his barrage of dysfunctional actors in tow, Dickie Wilson, played by Tyler Harris, was effervescent and brought energy to the stage. In his wake came a series of “actors” each with their own difficulties; Ronald played by Richard Edwards who was grasping onto his own relevance; Marigold Dubois played by Natalie Pedler who was far more interested in bathing than performing for the guests; and the wonderfully neurotic Charles played by John Scandurra who pranced about the stage like a stunned gazelle.
As a guest to the murder mystery weekend, Maddie Forbes (Betsy Appelhof) was sexually promiscuous and ready to flaunt it. Happily grabbing at any cast member (male or female) that stood still for too long, she spent a huge amount of time dragging people into cloakrooms. For having stepped into the role at the last moment Appelhof’s performance was commendable, although this was clearly where some of the rapid-fire dialogue came apart.
The other guests Freda Andrews and Angela Mortimer, played by Honey Butz and Marion Jones respectively, were the perpetually exasperated, consistently shocked, eyes of the audience. They spent much of the production scampering about writing to the authorities about the various goings-on in the vicarage, and both brought a note of grounded fun to the evening.
‘Don’t Get Your Vicars In A Twist; was a wonderful night at the theatre, which honoured some of our best traditions and highlighted what it means to be a part of a community. This is a fun-filled evening that’s not to be missed.
‘Don’t Get Your Vicars In A Twist’ performs until Saturday, 10 August 2019 at the Chelmer Community Centre. Tickets are available at Centenary Theatre Group’s Website.