Tea and toast with a helping of laughs

Dinnerladies: Second Helpings

The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

***

FOR those established fans of the TV show ‘dinner ladies’ the stage adaptation works very well and for fans of comedy theatre it stands on its own merits.  Victoria Wood’s own brand of writing captures the funny side of life in often poignant everyday situations.

Set in a northern factory, all scenes take place in the canteen.  Tony (Andrew Dunn) the canteen manager, just recovered from illness wants to make a new start with Bren (Laura Sheppard) in the Highlands but Bren has cold feet about starting all over without her support network of friends and colleagues.

Fate brings the opportunity of a change of fortune through a game show.  Henry Kelly puts in a surprise appearance as the show host through a good use of technology.  Unfortunately , Petula (Sue Devaney) passes away and Bren is unable to return to the show final where she stood to win a life-changing £10,000.  Hopes of a new start are dashed.

Meanwhile, news is received that the deal with a foreign company has fallen through, the canteen is to be closed and all staff are to be made redundant.  However, by a strange twist of fate, Petula facilitates a new start for everyone when she reveals, through her Living Will, the contents of the green bin bag. 

WELL OBSERVED

Once those of us familiar with the show stopped comparing performances, it is evident that Wood’s characterisations are so very well observed and written that the characters live on whoever delivers the lines.

Having said that, there were splendid performances by each member of the cast but the show stealer for me was Devaney playing Bren’s caravan-dwelling, wayward mother who openly admits that all she gained from motherhood was 40 years of disinterest in her child. Only Wood’s own particular wit means that she can get away with topics which would seem rather crass if written by others.

If you think about the show it reflects on the changing times and fortunes in industry, the reliance of British industry on overseas financial backing and support and how this impacts on the workforce; how restructuring affects the everyday person and how livelihoods and lifestyles are affected by these changes.  If you don’t want to think too hard about it it’s just a jolly good laugh. 

Overall a good time was had by all, including the performers, with many laugh out loud moments.  The cast took a bow to hearty appreciation.  To 23-07-11

Lynda Ford 

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