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Flawless cast serve up a treat

PUBLISHED: 17:46 22 April 2009 | UPDATED: 17:28 16 August 2010

FINE DINING:The new look line-up.

FINE DINING:The new look line-up.

IF imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Victoria Wood s Dinnerladies, recently seen at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford,

IF imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Victoria Wood's Dinnerladies, recently seen at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, couldn't be more complimentary, writes Mark Campbell.

Fans of this popular canteen-based sitcom will find all characters present and correct right down to the smallest nuance.

This is particularly impressive when you realise that only two of the cast hail from the original TV series.

Laura Sheppard gives a spookily accurate rendition of the central character, Bren, as played on TV by Victoria Wood. Every mannerism and vocal inflection is spot on, and from where I was sitting, it might as well have been the comedian herself who was up there on stage.

Likewise, Stella Ross as the brassy Jean - whose husband leaves her for his dental hygienist - is Anne Reid down to a T.

And Louise Dumayne plays HR manager Philippa as exactly the same 'jolly hockey sticks' scatterbrain as Celia Imrie's TV incarnation.

In fact the entire ensemble cast is flawless.

Liz Bagley as Dolly, Emily Butterfield as Twinkle and Barrie Palmer as Stan are all beautifully portrayed.

Peter Brad-Leigh virtually steals the show as a caustic employee trying to get served.

The two 'bona fide' cast members, Shobna Gulati (Anita) and Andrew Dunn (Tony) are exactly as we remember them too - perhaps surprisingly, since there's a nine-year gap since the final episode aired.

Only the character of Bren's mother Petula (Jacqueline Clarke) grates, and it grates just as much as when Julie Walters played her on telly.

She's a totally unreal creation, neither likeable nor believable; but thankfully she's not in it much.

Malvern Hostick's kitchen setting is remarkably convincing and the 'look' of the show is perfectly captured by director and adapter David Graham.

Dinnerladies, with its feelgood script sparkling with intelligent humour, is the perfect example of that rare breed - a sitcom stage adaptation that actually works. And works brilliantly.

The current production at the Orchard Theatre is The Producers by Mel Brooks, staged by DAODS, which finishes this Saturday. Tickets: 01322 220000.

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