Don’t Get Your Vicars in a Twist

‘Don’t Get Your Vicars in a Twist’ a particularly fine farce written by Lesley Bown and Ann Gawthorpe, and so not surprisingly it won the national Derek Lomas Playwriting Competition. The playwrights are both journalists and comedy script writers for radio and TV. They also teach playwriting. They have a series of books in the Hodder Teach Yourself series and have co-authored ‘Writing Plays’ which is part of their Creative Writing Masterclass series.

This hilarious, two-and-a-quarter-hour play is being presented by the Rockingham Theatre Company, at the Rockingham Castle Theatre, 8 Attwood Way, Rockingham. The performances at 8.00 pm are on the Friday and Saturday evenings 15th, 16th 22nd, 23rd July with matinées on Sunday 17th and 24th July at 2.00 pm

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The Scene:          1993 – the first year that female vicars were ordained in the UK.

The Venue:         The large entrance hall of an English country vicarage.

The Set Design:                 Rob Walker and Julia Della Franca have given us the ideal farce set. A good farce has a couple of essential requirements, so I knew I was in for a treat when I saw seven doors and a staircase. Guaranteed pandemonium. Four doors on the left lead to a library, dining room, office, and cloakroom. Across the stage is a kitchen door and a cupboard under the stairs. Centre of the rear wall is a glazed front door with white netted, side windows. Over the front door in the style of the church’s windows, is a beautiful stained-glass window with a central crucifix.

The walls have wood panelling below the dado and magnolia pink walls above. Religious paintings adorn the walls.

Set Builders:       Rob Walker, Kim Smith, Julia Della Franca, and the cast have thankfully produced a solid set – farces tend to have their doors banged and kicked a great deal.

Lighting designer and operator:                 Jackie Hiscox has given a well-distributed lighting to the set. Not grey patches. Well done.

Sound designer and operator:     Michelle Lawson has several split-second cues – spot on with each one.

Stage manager:               Sue Walker had a couple of special effects and instantaneous entrances and exits. Flowed beautifully.

Costumes:           Sue Walker and the cast, especially Jamie has a few surprises. With a burgundy corset and a burgundy beehive hairstyle, he was the maid to die for.         

Churchwarden George Williams (Rob Walker) is desperate to raise money for the gigantic and expensive wedding that his wife has arranged for their daughter. He has a brainwave; the vicarage will be empty whilst they are awaiting the arrival of their new vicar to take up the post, so George decides to hire out the vicarage for a Murder Mystery weekend, to Dickie (Jamie Jewell) a true and eager thespian, who runs a travelling drama company. This should make George a good deposit towards the wedding – as long as Alan (Callon Leam), the assistant verger does not learn what is going on.

George learns that their new vicar who is female, Caroline Timberlake (Bronte Born), is going to arrive a week early. The week of the Mystery Nights. Panic!

Let the Lord be praised, Caroline decides to keep a long-standing reunion with her college friends and the Murder Mystery can go ahead. However, George finds that the actors are due to arrive before the vicar is going to leave! More panic, can he get her out of the house?

The troupe of actors arrive. There is alcoholic Ronald (Peter Scarrott), dedicated Marigold (Helen Brown), nervous and bored Charles (Peter Shaw) and man-mad Maddie (Michelle Smith) – if it is male and moves Maddie is there!

Unfortunately, Bishop Herbert (Danny Joyce) who was determined to have the first parish with a female vicar, decides to visit his new minister. Actors and church dignitaries create total confusion as George tries to salvage the weekend – and still get paid.

As the actors settle in, the first two guests arrive. They are two old prudish sisters. Pedantic and assured Freda (Sue Walker) with her neurotic and insecure sister Angela (Ruth Watt). Chaos. Can things get any worse? Yes.

This particularly brilliant farce is hilarious. Director Alison Gibson has been a Rockingham Theatre member for years and as it is particularly famous for the farces it puts on; she has an abundance of experience both as an actor and director, so is able to get every ounce of laughs from the very clever script. Some of the actors had cool relaxed expressions, whilst the others were having nervous breakdowns. This intricate farce had several interwoven themes that took it to the cream of farces.

Alison has chosen a fabulous cast. After years over east, the theatre group was happy to have two treasures return to the fold, Michelle, and Jamie, both of whom were exceptional. Helen will return from a bout of Covid just in time for opening night. The script and action are very demanding but the cast conquered every moment. Expect the unexpected.

Suitable for 10 years old and up. Full of laughter throughout.