I’ve seen a lot of productions at The Mill at Sonning over the years, and I’m delighted to say this world premiere has shimmied its way to the top of my list of favourites.
Writers Marcia Kash and Mary Colin Chisholm’s superbly-scripted play has characters that you genuinely care about. All that belly dancing is a bonus.
The story focuses on two women. Marnie (Lesley Harcourt) is a new mum working hard to make her speciality cake business a success while her partner Ravi (Dharmesh Patel) shares parental duties and helps with deliveries.
Marnie’s nervous friend Jane (Sarah Edwardson), a carer and cleaner, faces a challenging time at home with her agoraphobic partner Brian (Peter Hamilton Dyer) who is obsessed about her safety.
In this female-dominated play, the two male characters are strongly written. And for all the bare tums on display, it’s actually Ravi who flashes the flesh first as he emerges topless from the shower!
Determined to lose her “baby blubber”, Marnie goes to pilates with Jane, but a venue mix-up sees them end up at a belly dancing class led by the exotically-named Shalimar (Jacqueline Roberts).
“She’s about as exotic as a chip butty,” observes Marnie drily.
Within a few short scenes, A Belly Full establishes a cast of engaging characters and throws in an excellent twist that spins out during the second act.
The enthusiastic belly dancing classmates include Alice Bell as Willow, Sabina Franklyn as Rose and Gilly Tompkins as Tess. Maia Watkins is brilliant as stroppy teenager Aleesha.
A Belly Full started out as a film screenplay. Seeing its potential, The Mill’s artistic director Sally Hughes suggested it should adapted for the stage.
It was a good call. This is a hip-wiggling hit.
A Belly Full is at The Mill at Sonning until 15 June