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Revving up

02 May 2014

IF YOU enjoy the real-life situations in the TV programme Rev (whether or not you are irritated by the frequent well-meaning incompetence of its main character), then some thanks are due to Bishop John Cavell, aged 97, who was Bishop of Southampton from 1972-84, and is now living in Salisbury diocese.

I am told that he is a is a great conversationalist with a fund of anecdotes, and, when the scriptwriter of Rev, James Wood, and the lead actor, Tom Hollander, first thought about making a TV sitcom about the life of a vicar, they turned to him for advice.

"I've known James for years," the Bishop says, "and his parents for even longer. I prepared his mother for confirmation when I was a vicar in Cheltenham in the 1950s, and later conducted his parents' wedding. Then I conducted James's wedding, as well.

"When James was first thinking about a comedy series about a vicar, he came down to Salisbury to see me two or three times with Tom Hollander, the actor who plays Adam Smallbone, the vicar in the series.

"As I was already in my nineties, I thought they should meet younger clergy; so I arranged for them to meet different groups of people here. Although Rev is set in the East End, Salisbury has had quite some influence on it."

He warmly approves of the series. "In the middle of all the absurdities that make up a situation comedy, suddenly there are moments when one thinks, 'Oh yes, that's true!' It's obvious that a lot of the humorous incidents in the scripts have come from speaking to working parish clergy."

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