Classic TV shows on stage seem to be all the rage at the moment, the most recent one here being Columbo at The Lowry. Dinnerladies, based on the popular Victoria Wood sitcom returns to Manchester for more kitchen gossip from the eccentric team of characters.
The story is pretty much lifted from the TV show and centres on Tony (Andrew Dunn) and Bren (Laura Sheppard) finding love with each other amongst the sandwiches and coffee pots.
The problem with this concept for fans of the TV show like myself, is that there is nothing here. The characters and situations are all known to most of the audience. And the TV series formula also poses another big problem, and that’s the running time. In the sitcom, it’s a breezy 30 mins, however stretched out to almost 2 hours, you sometimes find your attention wandering. Luckily the jokes come thick and fast every few seconds but, whilst some of these moments are laugh-out-loud funny, many jokes failed to get a rise out of the opening night audience, especially in the overlong first act.
However these are small grumbles, as it’s an easy show to watch and if you leave your brain at the door you will have a smile on your face for the most of the night. It still retains Wood's signature humour throughout the show so if you are partial to that kind of witty banter and retro British humour with mentions of potted meats, Garibaldi biscuits, wagon wheels, and plenty of double entendres, you cannot go wrong.
The talented cast deliver close to perfect performances, many of which are channelling the actors from the popular TV show. Sheppard could pass for a Victoria Woods double and does not disappoint at all. Physically and vocally, she never misses a moment.
Roya Amiri as the ditzy Anita also does well and has the best one-liners of the night, including one about a funeral and the Countdown theme tune. However one of the evening’s best is Sue Devaney as toast lover Jane, always a bright spot in the TV series and even funnier live.
Dinnerladies is a fun but flawed night, which could do with some chopping here and there but the show easily pleases its target audience and it’s a worthy tribute and loving reminder of one of the UK's best loved sitcoms.