Unfortunately, the problems begin with Dawn Hollington, who just is not very believable as Wendy, the owner-cum-waitress of the tearoom. Her rather colourless delivery is highlighted further with the entrances of Linda Denning and Lee Tilson as an elderly couple who are stuck in a loveless marriage, harbouring secrets, desires, and disappointments from each other. Tilson makes Mr Baker an old-fashioned northern bully, but it is Denning who impresses most as a cowering, nervous wreck, simmering with pent-up frustration at her lost chances and fractured relationship with her husband. Elsewhere, Georgina Waring, Eileen Rawlings, Patricia Richardson and Louise Thomas all deliver both amusing and poignant character studies, all recognizable figures who we could easily encounter ourselves.
If the production suffers, it is largely due to the writing. Tanya Alexander's overlong script drags the most in the second half, and as a result, the acting feels weaker. The patter between Ellie Cowley and Emma Moran delves dangerously deep into cliche and appears forced and unnatural. By the time Alexander herself has entered, proceedings have taken a sudden nosedive, and soap opera style melodrama creeps ominously into the piece. Attempts to be wonderfully realistic sadly fail, and even though there is a breath of fresh air in the shape of Rawlings, whose insightful musings on the differences between the sexes create some laughter, our patience has all but run out.
I applaud the company's efforts with this ambitious new project but must admit, felt a little disappointed at opportunities missed. At £15 a ticket, one can't help wondering if the public aren't left feeling a little shortchanged. Still, the cake was delicious.