Review: dinnerladies, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, until Saturday May 21

Anticipation was high as the audience settled down to catch up with Victoria Wood’s dinnerladies, in particular the state of play between Bren (Laura Sheppard) and Canteen Manager Tony (Andrew Dunn).

Poor Bren is unenviably disadvantaged by her self-obsessed mother Petula (played to great comic effect by Sue Devaney) and laid-back Tony has his work cut out convincing Bren to throw caution to the wind and run off to Scotland with him.

David Graham’s adaptation retains the essence of the characterful canteen staff of HWD Components in Manchester. Rebecca Wingate gives a splendid performance as Philippa from the Human Resources Department and manages to remind us of Celia Imrie (the original Phillipa) while retaining her own theatrical skills. Jean (Margaret Preece) and Dolly (Gay Lambert) maintain an amusing rivalry and stay close to the original interpretations.

Occasionally the subtlety of the piece was lost in delivery but this a play that needed to keep the pace up. It is a comedy, but Victoria Wood never gives is to us straight. There is pathos and a sense of sadness as inevitably the canteen is faced with closure and threatening the close knit relationships of the workplace.

Designer Malvern Hostick gave us the opportunity to watch telly with the cast in a clever relaying of Bren’s participation in a game show. The mobile screen inadvertently provided extra amusement when Tony tripped on the cable and earned a round of applause for his brilliant recovery.

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All in all a good night out and watch for the delicious drunken collapse of Petula.

Carol Twinch

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