dinnerladies: Second Helpings

Victoria Wood, adapted from the TV scripts by David Graham
The Comedy Theatre Company
Darlington Civic Theatre and touring

dinnerladies: Second Helpings production photo

Following on from the success of their first stage adaptation of Victoria Wood's cosy ensemble sit-com, dinnerladies, which has already toured nationally three times, The Comedy Theatre Company are back with a second stage version, appropriately sub-titled Second Helpings.

Essentially, in much the same style as the first production, the piece is a selection of scenes and storylines from the much-loved television sit-com - which ran for sixteen episodes over two series' between 1998 and 2000 - woven together in a way that is specifically designed to appeal to fans of the small-screen series.

To add an air of authenticity to the proceedings, two of the original cast members star in the stage show. Andrew Dunn reprises his role as Tony, the cranky canteen manager at HWD Components, a fictional factory in Manchester, whilst Sue Devaney doubles-up as both Jane from the planning department and Bren's flatulent fantasist mother, Petula Gordino.

It must be acknowledged that this casting stunt pays dividends: Dunn is excellent as the manager who has to cope with a group of women who are either menopausal, menstruating, moaning or minding everybody's business but their own. It is Devaney, though, who single-handedly steals the show with her raucous representation of the unruly woman and fantastic physical clowning.

The supporting cast have been chosen for their ability to look, sound and act like the performers who portrayed the roles on screen, and this works more effectively in some cases than in others. Laura Sheppard is remarkably successful in her portrayal of Bren; her mannerisms, facial expressions and voice being eerily close to those of Victoria Wood.

Darlington is the first venue on this latest tour and there were one or two minor glitches which, I'm sure, will be ironed-out before the end of the week. Also, the first act was a little slow to gather pace and, at times, the quick-fire dialogue that hallmarks Victoria Wood's writing lost some of its impact as a result of timing issues in its delivery.

That said, the show was received extremely well by an appreciative audience who delighted in the deliciousness of Victoria Wood's flair for depicting both character and situation.

Runs at Darlington until Saturday 12th February 2011. Touring to Windsor, Lincoln, Durham, Cardiff, Hull, Wolverhampton, Blackpool, Bradford, Malvern, Buxton, Peterborough, Colchester, Norwich, Brighton and Stoke.

Reviewer: Steve Burbridge

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