JOURNALISTS and playwriting partners Lesley Bown and Ann Gawthorpe quickly recognised the comic potential of the Church of England’s decision to accept female vicars into the once wholly patriarchal workforce.
But for their hilarious farce Don’t Get Your Vicars in a Twist, on stage at Salisbury’s Studio Theatre in Ashley Road until 24th October, they decided to throw in far more lay complications.
The parish has been vicarless for some weeks, and George, one of the church wardens, decides there is plenty of time to open a window of opportunity and hire out the vacant vicarage to the organiser of a Murder Mystery Weekend. It’s all so he can raise the money to pay for his daughter’s increasingly extravagant wedding plans.
It all goes wrong when the Bishop rapidly appoints a new vicar, Caroline, but she’s a forgetful and scatty charmer who, happily, has a college reunion on the weekend in question.
Unfortunately, the other church warden, Alan, has a bit of crush on Caroline, and turns up to check on the house, just as Professional ActOr Dickie turns up, ready to welcome his cast, and his guests.
It’s too complicated to synopsise, but suffice it to say that it ends up with two bishops – one drunken and one with a bit of a history – a nymphomaniac widow, a tipsy diva, two actors in drag, two church wardens sometimes in drag, a lot of doors opening and closing and locking, a battleaxe and her timid niece, and, of course, the return of Caroline.
Sally Marshall’s direction sparkles and the excellent and versatile Studio Theatre company once again turns in a production that would grace many professional stages.
The FTR best legs award goes to Paul Chambers, whose dahling Dickie is as hilarious as Keith Edmund’s increasingly fraught George. Harvey Munnery is perfect as the gentle and besotted Alan, with George Cotterill relishing every moment of vamping as Maddie.
Anthony von Roretz once again uses his sonorous voice to great effect as Charles, the actor blackmailed into a skirt. Theo Ross dominates in tweed, and Emma Young cringes with the best of them (I was never quite sure if they had actually been booked into the Murder Mystery, or if that was all a mistake, too).
There are unconscious bodies aplenty and the fun is fast and furious.
Photographs by Anthony von Roretz, in rehearsal.