Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Dinner Ladies, Shobna Gulati, Andrew Dunn, Review, Eastbourne, Devonshire Park Theatre


CAST (in appearance order)

Stan - Barrie Palmer
Bren - Laura Sheppard
Tony - Andrew Dunn
Anita - Shobna Gulati
Dolly - Liz Bagley
Jean - Stella Ross
Twinkle - Emily Butterfield
Petula - Jacqueline Clarke
Philippa - Louise Dumayne
Jane - Joanna Lee Martin
Bob - Peter Brad-Leigh
Martin -Himself

The touring stage show is, of course, based on the TV show of the same name.

Dinner Ladies starring Andrew Dunn, Shobna Gulati,, Laura Sheppard, Barrie Palmer, Liz Bagley, Stella Ross, Emily Butterfield, Jacqueline Clarke, Louise Dumayne, Joanna Lee Martin, Peter Brad-LeighI have to be honest whilst I have seen Victoria Wood's comedy series Dinner ladies on the small screen I can't say I am it's biggest fan. So we went to see this knowing that if we had come out with the feeling that it was "ok" then we wouldn't be disappointed.

I have to begin by saying the canteen set is outstanding. The fictitious HWD Components would be proud that their well fitted canteen is travelling with style. Warburton's the bakers are the main sponsor of the tour and whilst their bread makes a regular guest appearance on stage I have to say that in no way is the product placement overstated.

The stage story mainly revolves around the will-they-wont-they love affair between Tony and Bren. Whether it finishes in a happy ending I'll leave the theatre goers to find out.

There's a lot of the usual Dinner Ladies humour, plenty of sexual inuendo and a consistently funny dialogue.

I am aware that when Victoria Wood came up with the idea for the tour she wanted the cast to be as close as possible, both in looks and voice, to the TV show's stars.

Andrew DunnDid she succeed? Without a doubt yes! Laura Shepherd almost sounds more like Victoria Wood than Victoria Wood herself. But not only that Laura had captured every Bren/Victoria Wood mannerism perfectly.

Sometimes in these TV show spin-off stage tours the attempt to copy original performers doesn't quite work perfectly (Dad's Army comes to mind). Not in this case though and whilst only 2 of the cast were originals from the show, Andrew Dunn and Shobna Gulati, they were clearly good enough to convince the audience and to create a mini-comedy from the audience members in the interval.

Many people who clearly hadn't bought a programme (or if they had they hadn't glanced at it) discussed their feelings whilst they waited for part 2.

"He looks very like the bloke who plays Tony in the programme", a discussion about Andrew Dunn who of course does star in the TV show. "She really sounds like the girl who plays Anita", although Shobna Gulati would probably wish she looked like herself too!!.

Shobna Gulati"Doesn't Thelma Barlow look different on stage?" well Liz Blagley would probably be relieved that she isn't an exact clone of Coronation Street legend Thelma. With others not being sure if Victoria Wood was Victoria Wood or not the audience entertained itself in the interval.

I mentioned this to Andrew Dunn after the show and he says it happens all the time, all over the country. It must be a good discussion point in the pub after the performance.

Act 2 I am pleased to say is just as funny as Act 1. In the end this is thanks to Victoria Wood's superb casting and the actors she chose transferring convincingly the voices, mannerism's and even the looks of the TV characters from the screen to the stage.

To this point I've only mentioned 4 characters but that doesn't take anything away from any of the other cast members - they are all marvellous.

Did I leave with the "OK" feeling I would have been content with after the show? No I didn't I left having seen a comedy I had thoroughly enjoyed from beginning to end. A TV show cleverly transferred to the stage, a good script, great humour and extremely well acted by all.

In fact if Victoria Wood could come up with a new script and the cast were prepared to tour again I am sure many of the theatre goers who saw this initial production would return. I would! 

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1 comment:

  1. I saw the show in Northampton ,and thought it excellent!Already a big fan of the tv show,I must admit that I knew all of the jokes beforehand.The cast were all superb and the fits of uncontrolable laughter between Shobna and Andrew at the delivery of the "yoghurt-breasts"line will stay in my mind a while yet.

    I hope to see more in the future if Victoria Wood is reading this!!!


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