Sitcom to stage adaptations are all the rage, with Dad’s Army proving to be a great success, Porridge currently doing time all over the UK and Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies providing audiences with a fix of the classic canteen-set comedy.
Cynics may argue theatre adds nothing to the genre, and it's true, it does feel like you are watching the show being recorded, but when the script is as polished and funny as Wood’s, you are willing to forgive the fact you could just stay at home and watch the dvd, instead.
Some of the original stars are back, including Andrew Dunn as stoic boss and wannabe love interest of Bren, Tony; the superb Shobna Gulati as dopey, yet lovable Anita and zany Sue Devaney’s toast loving, fast talker, Jane. This trio seem to relish returning to these roles and because you are now spending an evening in their company, as opposed to half an hour, they seem more fleshed out, as a result.
The rest of the cast channel the original actors with excellent to mixed results. Laura Shepherd is a real find as lovelorn Bren. She nails Victoria Wood’s mannerisms down to a tee but also manages to convey the bittersweet elements of the writing with real ease.
Liz Bagley and Stella Ross have genuine chemistry as Dolly & Jean, although Bagley does tend to shout the lines, which leaves many of the punch-lines wasted. Emily Butterfield’s Twinkle and Louise Dumayne’s Phillipa feel like Mike Yarwood style impersonations and bring nothing new to the roles.
In complete contrast, Jacqueline Clarke makes the role of Bren’s mum, Petula her own, and is a joy to watch, as she could have so easily defaulted to a Julie Walters impression.
Wood’s writing has not lost its impact over time, as there are still some great double entendres and quick-fire gags, laced with poignant moments. It is this that keeps you from doubting the point of staging the production. They don’t make sit-coms like this any more and yet for all of its quaintness, Wood was ahead of her time as this delightful production remains a great showcase for actresses.
If you have a cob on this week, Dinnerladies will cheer you up no end, as it is the comedy equivalent of a nice cup of tea with two sugars.