Second helpings is the official description of the new touring production based on Victoria Woods’ successful sit-com series. And, just like the extras piled onto your plate, it’s better than the first serving. There’s less of a feel of a television clone, and much more of the sense that this is a play for the stage – both in David Graham’s direction of the action and the performances themselves..
Laura Sheppard makes Bren into someone with whom it is possible to empathise, even if somewhat ruefully from time to time. So you want to shake Andrew Dunn’s Tony for his cavalier way with both his and her affections – but also appreciate his aspirations. Around this couple circle their satellites – the catering staff and the other employees and suppliers (in more than one sense) of HWD Components.
In this context Philippa from the ill-omened HR department (Rebecca Wingate) is a good example of a stereotype – but one who across in this version as a young woman with real personality and a sense of conflicting responsibilities. Emily Houghton as the “I’m not bovvered” Twink, Mark Huckett as Norman, the baker’s man with more phobias than loaves and Barrie Palmer as Stan, dab-hand with a screwdriver but less nimble with relationships, also make their mark.
Bren has a mother from hell, the dipso, nympho Petula. Sue Devaney has a whale of a time with the pocket-size horror, so wayward that her final bowing-out makes perfect sense in its own ludicrous context. Malvern Hostick’s ultra-realistic set helps to keep the whole show taut, as do the concentration of time and the inter-weaving of the various plot strands.