If ever the BBC were to revive two of its best loved sitcoms they wouldn’t go far wrong by looking towards Duns Players when it came to drawing up the cast lists.
Just like they did to great aplomb last year, the ever entertaining Berwickshire bunch brought ‘Dads Army’ and ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ to the stage again last week.
Rehearsing and staging a show in the space of five weeks is no mean feat but directors Peter Lerpiniere and Matthew Taylor rallied their troops to put on an evening of theatre that brightened up a rotten, typically British evening weather-wise.
Doing some rallying of his own, Jerry Ponder lead the ranks of ‘Dad’s Army’ with military precision as Captain Mainwaring
Performing a classic sitcom it would be very easy, but perhaps dangerous, to try and mimic the original actors to a tee, but the Players whilst giving an affectionate nod to the men who made ‘Dad’s Army’ the national treasure it still is, didn’t try and be doppelgangers.
Stepping down from Dibley Parish Council to take on the role of Jones for the first time, Euan McIver would certainly have got Clive Dunn’s seal of approval.
Jones is many people’s favourite ‘Dad’s Army’ character and Euan, who’s barely been off the stage in the past two months, made him a firm favourite with Duns folk.
Nigel Warren was the perfect fit for the calm and collected Wilson, becoming the perfect foil for the mean and moody Mainwaring and jovial Jones.
DC had perfect comic timing for the wise cracking Walker while Mike Hedderwick’s Fraser could easily be mistaken for the real thing.
Last seen in the Emergency Services Panto, Frank Barker earned his Players stripes as Godfrey while Matthew Taylor warmed up for his Dibley directing duties to put his own spin on joker in the pack Pike.
The men didn’t have it all their own way, the female contingent of the cast too made an impression, with Christine Scalter once again a joy to watch as Mainwaring’s short lived courting partner Mrs Gray.
‘Dad’s Army’ ended with a sad goodbye but ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ was all about hellos with Kate Lester’s Geraldine Granger meeting her parishioners for the first time.
Just like Dawn French’s woman of the cloth, Kate made Geraldine a larger than life character full of warmth well timed gags.
Charlotte Tait’s Alice was delightfully ditzy, with her scenes with Kate really hitting the spot.
A number of actors took to the stage for both shows but did they rise to the challenge?
To quote Nigel Warren’s JIm “no, no, no, no, yes”. DC went from geezer to geek to play lovable toff Hugo while Peter Lerpiniere went from behind the scenes to in the spotlight to put his own slant on the no nonsense David.
Cecilia Hedderwick made Mrs Cropley a lot more enjoyable than her ham and lemon curd sandwiches; Mike Hedderwick shone as the pedantic Frank while Dougal Affleck made a fine foray into Dibley as straight talking farmer Owen.
The success of both shows relied on the cast’s ability to bring the same warmth to the stage as you’d get if you were watching the shows slumped in an armchair with a fresh cup of tea.
They certainly managed that and with the ‘Dad’s Army’ and ‘Vicar of Dibley’ boxes ticked for a second time the big question is what’s next?