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The Vicar of Dibley at Koorliny Arts Centre

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WA premiere of official The Vicar of Dibley stage show
The Vicar of Dibley, Koorliny Arts Centre, Laughing Horse Productions, theatre, performing arts, Dawn French, Richard Curtis, stage, premiere
Karen Godfrey, left, as Geraldine Granger and Peter Neaves as David Horton in The Vicar of Dibley. Picture: Rochelle Hayward


The official stage adaptation of The Vicar of Dibley makes its West Australian debut at the Koorliny Arts Centre next month. Adapted by Ian Gower and Paul Carpenter from the original 1990s TV series by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer, the script spans the first two seasons with some later references thrown in.

The story follows the arrival and adventures of a new female vicar in a small English country town, finishing with the wedding of Hugo and Alice. Kelly Salathiel is directing the show for Laughing Horse Productions.

The Vicar of Dibley, Koorliny Arts Centre, Laughing Horse Productions, theatre, performing arts, Dawn French, Richard Curtis, stage, premiere
Geraldine Granger (Karen Godfrey, left), David Horton (Peter Neaves), Alice Tinker (Suzy June Wakeling) and Hugo Horton (Callon Leam) in The Vicar of Dibley. Picture: Rochelle Hayward

"I loved the TV show and watched it as often as it was on television," she said. "I wanted to direct it on stage but, at the same time, I didn't want to just take a couple of episodes as others have done – it's too hard to pick!

"So I hunted around and managed to find a written script. Seven years later, it's finally coming to the stage." Originally scheduled for April last year, the production had to be delayed due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Vicar of Dibley, Koorliny Arts Centre, Laughing Horse Productions, theatre, performing arts, Dawn French, Richard Curtis, stage, premiere
Alice (Suzy June Wakeling, left) in The Vicar of Dibley with Cameron (Blake Taaffe), Katie (Amara Maddalena), Luke (Peter Designino), Archie (Chloe Nally-Olsen) and Lizzie (Charlotte Sampson). Picture: Rochelle Hayward

"When we finally got re-scheduled, I lost a couple of original cast members who couldn't commit to the new dates so had to hunt around and find replacements. As hard as all that's been, I have a wonderful cast and the show will be great."

Becoming involved in theatre while in high school, Kelly has never looked backed and has performed with Garrick, Phoenix and Roleystone Theatres over the past 10 years. She started Laughing Horse Productions with her former husband in 2012 and has directed various shows that have produced winners of acting awards.

The Vicar of Dibley, Koorliny Arts Centre, Laughing Horse Productions, theatre, performing arts, Dawn French, Richard Curtis, stage, premiere
Director Kelly Salathiel, third from right, with The Vicar of Dibley actors Suzy June Wakeling, Karen Godfrey, Peter Neaves, Callon Leam, David Zuiddam and Sally Payne. Picture: Rochelle Hayward

"The biggest thing I want to ensure with The Vicar of Dibley is that I'm not producing a copy of the TV show," she said. "This is an interpretation. I'm trying to honour the original show and having the right cast, who understands that, helps in a big way.

"The fact the script we're working off has never been produced in WA before means the show is already something the audience wouldn't have previously seen."

The Vicar of Dibley, Koorliny Arts Centre, Laughing Horse Productions, theatre, performing arts, Dawn French, Richard Curtis, stage, premiere
David Horton (Peter Neaves, left) and Frank Pickle (David Zuiddam) contemplate another slice of life in The Vicar of Dibley. Picture: Rochelle Hayward


Peter Neaves plays David Horton, chair of the Dibley Parish Council Committee. "He's an officious snob and horrified when the replacement vicar arrives, especially when he finds out the vicar is a woman," he said. "Adding to his pain is his son's love for the bumbling church verger Alice. His life is not a happy one – but maybe the new vicar can change that.

"When it comes to playing a well-known character from a TV show, it's understandable the audience will expect to see what they know. The biggest challenge is portraying the character in a way the audience will recognise while still making the role my own."

The Vicar of Dibley, Koorliny Arts Centre, Laughing Horse Productions, theatre, performing arts, Dawn French, Richard Curtis, stage, premiere
Geraldine Granger (Karen Godfrey, left) shocked by Alice (Suzy June Wakeling) yet again in The Vicar of Dibley. Picture: Rochelle Hayward


Since moving to Australia in 2012, Peter has appeared with Stirling, Melville, KADS and Garrick Theatres in productions such as 'Allo 'Allo, What Belongs To You, Are You Being Served?, One Man, Two Guvnors, Cash on Delivery, Keeping Up Appearances, Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Beyond A Joke. He was named best actor at the 2014 Hills Festival of Theatre for his role in Love and Other Flushes, a show from Laughing Horse Productions also directed by Kelly Salathiel.

The Vicar of Dibley, Koorliny Arts Centre, Laughing Horse Productions, theatre, performing arts, Dawn French, Richard Curtis, stage, premiere
The Vicar of Dibley features Sally Payne, left, as Letitia Cropley and David Zuiddam as Frank Pickle. Picture: Rochelle Hayward

"I've always enjoyed The Vicar of Dibley and could see myself playing the role," Peter said. "After playing Rene in 'Allo 'Allo, Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances and Mr Rumbold in Are You Being Served?, it was an easy yes when Kelly asked me to take on the role of David."

The Vicar of Dibley plays 7.30pm May 14, 15, 21 and 22 with 2pm matinees May 15 and 22. Tickets are $25, $23 concession – book at www.koorliny.com.au. The Koorliny Arts Centre is at 10 Hutchins Way, Kwinana.

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Why? The Vicar of Dibley is a comedy that has stood the test of time and its true joy comes from its warmth and sense of community.
When: 7.30pm May 14, 15, 21 & 22; 2pm May 15 & 22
Where: Koorliny Arts Centre, 10 Hutchins Way, Kwinana
Cost: $25, $23 concession
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