Review: Dinnerladies, Sunderland Empire, until Saturday

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THERE weren’t many meals being made in this canteen, but they did serve up lashing of gentle humour and some generous helpings of spot-on comic timing.

Based on the second series of its namesake BBC sitcom, the play relives the trials and tribulations of canteen staff in a Manchester factory as lead roles Bren and Tony forge ahead with their relationship and HWD Components is threatened by a Japanese takeover.

The stage actors stay true to the spirit of the TV show, if sometimes a little too much.

Laura Sheppard, though excellent in the role of Bren, has obviously spent hours perfecting original Bren Victoria Wood’s mannerisms and gesticulations which can be a little off-putting.

In contrast, Emily Houghton, who plays Twink, manages to convey the essence of the character without it feeling like an impersonation of TV actress Maxine Peake.

For some actors, however, there is no imitation needed.

The stage production benefits from two of the original cast members: Andrew Dunn as Tony and Sue Devaney as her original character Jane.

Sue also doubles up as Bren’s perennially flatulent mother Petula, played to perfection originally by Julie Walters.

It’s hard to imagine anyone else in this role, but to Sue’s credit she manages to make it her own. She’s a joy to watch as she recalls her “celebrity” dalliances and smuggles stolen Kit Kats – and men – into her van.

Despite its mundane setting, the plot is quite pacey and you sometimes feel as though the cast whip through the lines.

The jokes you could hear clearly were a hit with the audience, particularly a rib-tickling confusion over basque undergarments and the Basque people.

Despite the TV show being more than 10 years old, the cast of Dinnerladies make it feel fresh while maintaining the elements that made the programme a hit: quick-fire gags and double-entendres interlaced with more poignant moments.

Some may doubt the validity of staging TV shows, but this proves that Dinnerladies was definitely worth second helpings.