Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Dinnerladies: Second Helpings – New Theatre, Cardiff

Writer: Victoria Wood 
Adaptor/Director: David Graham
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions

The second stage show to be adapted from Victoria Wood’s successful television sitcom ‘Dinnerladies’, The Comedy Theatre Company’s production of Dinnerladies: Second Helpings transports the audience to the familiar surroundings of the factory canteen and invites them to observe the everyday and not so ordinary lives of the people working there. 

All the favourite characters from the TV show are there and in the cases of canteen manager Tony and crazy customer Jane are played by their original television actors (Andrew Dunn and Sue Devaney). This gives the show a comforting familiarity and helps to suppress any fears the audience have about seeing the characters they have grown to love being played by different people. The rest of the cast do a fantastic job of staying true to the characters as we know them. Laura Sheppard has the biggest shoes to fill, playing Bren; the role made famous by Victoria Wood herself. Although while interacting with the others her characterisation is spot on, there are moments during her longer speeches that in impersonating Victoria Wood the essence of the character is lost slightly. 

The other characters introduced are handyman Stan (Barrie Palmer), personnel officer Philippa (Rebecca Wingate), and canteen staff Twink (Emily Houghton), Dolly (Gay Lambert), Anita (Krupa Pattani) and Jean (Margaret Preece). Plus Bren’s mother Petula pops in and out to cause chaos. Supporting roles are played by Mark Huckett, Alice Bell and Gary Hanks. The real star of the show is Sue Devaney. She gives a rather unexpected and extremely funny performance that alone makes the show well worth seeing.

Although this adaptation stays very true to the television series, it is not essential to have watched either the TV show or the first Dinnerladies play to enjoy this piece. The characters are subtly introduced to the audience so as not to bore a Dinnerladies fan by telling them what they already know, but still enables a stranger to the format to relate quickly to the people and their situations.

There is always a concern with anything based on a half hour television show that it will not stand up as a full length play, but this adaptation is very well written with a good pace and the laughs come thick and fast making it entertaining throughout. The story deals with everyday situations and stresses such as relationships, family and job threats in a light hearted and funny way. However, there were occasional references that went over my head so anyone much younger than their late twenties may not get some of the many allusions to old films, celebrities and television shows.

Mind blowing theatre this may not be but if you’re looking for a bit of light hearted fun in true Victoria Wood style then this show will not disappoint.

Runs until Saturday 5th March 2011
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