by David Tuffnell

Ever worked in a factory?
Have you ever wanted something to happen, something exciting? Ever dreamt of something coming along and helping you stand out from the crowd? Well Sarah has, Denise too. In fact everyone who works on Line 2 wants a change because life can’t be all about packets of Cheese and Onion crisps.
Inspired by a series of interviews with women from Teesside, Miss Crispy 1988 tells the story of a beauty pageant with a difference.  Set in the north east at the end of 1987 and the start of 1988, Miss Crispy 1988 follows five very unique ladies with even more unique situations. Sarah is all about family, Betty is all about the union, Denise is all about the trends, Anne is all about her baby and Pam, well, Pam would just love a regular bowel movement.
A warm, moving and often funny play that pays homage to the women of Middlesbrough and shows just what depths of love and compassion they are capable of especially in the face of adversity. “
Please note the production contains some mild language and lots of crisp eating.

Miss Crispy 1988
Written By: David Tuffnell
Directed By: David Tuffnell
Produced By: less is MORE

Performance Dates

July 2012 - Middlesbrough Theatre

2013 Tour Dates
8th - 11th May - Newcastle Theatre Royal Studio
Liverton Town Hall -
Blackfriars Arts Centre - 14th June
Custome House 17th & 18th June

 Middlesbrough Cast: 
Interviewer / Host: Pip Chamberlain
Betty: Doreen Frankland
Tom: Jonny Jones
Anne: Victoria Holtom
Sarah: Ruth Carr 
Denise: Kelly Jackson
Pam: Wendie Middleton

The Tour Cast:
Interviewer/Host: Pip Chamberlain
Betty: Doreen Frankland
Tom: Stan Hodgson
Anne: Victoria Holtom
Sarah: Nichola Lagan
​Denise: Laura Lonsdale
Pam: Wendie Middleton


Watch our promo video here:

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Picking up my ticket for Miss Crispy 1988, I was warned that it would be difficult to avoid dancing to the retro soundtrack. It was true; with the boxes of KP crisps littering the stage and ‘Agadoo’ on in the background, it’s enough to make anyone feel nostalgic for ‘better times’. The play, written and directed by David Tuffnell and  produced by Middlesbrough’s less is MORE theatre company, is firmly rooted in Teesside’s history.
The story was inspired by an image of a ‘Miss KP Foods’ pageant winner and  the experiences of real women  from the area.

The play follows a group of women working on the crisp packaging assembly line in Billingham, each with aspirations to claim the title of “Miss Crispy 1988”.
The most important thing to say about Miss Crispy is that it is hilarious and absurd yet utterly realistic, with heaps of North-Eastern charm and peppered with a darkness which rounds the characters. There wasn’t a member of the cast who didn’t have a tale to tell; the innocent of the group, Pam – played wonderfully by Wendie Middleton – was a particular hit, with a style proving that girls really do just wanna have fun. The women’s journey to the ‘Miss Crispy’ final is laden with tears and tantrums and  snapshots of their audition line-up are woven in to to great comic effect, with Pip Chamberlin acting as both the seedy interviewer and a throwback to Saturday night telly with his Host of the final.
At the heart of the show is the relationships between the women – Betty, played by Doreen Frankland, acts as matriarch and union rep to the girls, and their bonding over cheese and onion flavouring leads to various touching moments.

The women support each other in times of personal upheaval; however, is the undercurrent of friction provided by newcomer Sarah (played by Nichola Lagan). And there is a wonderful backwards love story between Line 2 girl Anne, played by Victoria Holtom and her fiancée Tom.

Stan Hodgson – playing Tom –  said of his time working on ‘Miss Crispy’ that “It was a pleasure looking at the real people of Middlesbrough; there were great laughs to be had with it and getting down to my kegs on stage was certainly a unique experience!”. And if that’s not an incentive to catch the show, then I don’t know what is.


The play is set in the in late 1980s and evokes the era perfectly, referencing music, fashion and events of the time. Action centres around a beauty contest in a Teesside crisp factory and the lives of five contestants are revealed. Secrets come to light, issues are explored, and there are plenty of laughs along the way. There's even an unexpected delivery on packing line 2.

Sensitive issues are handled with a lightness of touch that makes them all the more powerful and poignant. It takes courage to tackle things like child abuse, loneliness, rejection and illegitimacy through comedy and Miss Crispy 1988 should be applauded for doing so in a manner that means the laughs never feel gratuitous. Comedy is counterpointed by a particularly highly charged scene in the second act.

Greater character development would strengthen the piece further, as this was the one weakness that stood out. This warm, funny and affectionate hymn to Teesside ends with the sense that each of the five women has more stories waiting to be told.


A PLAY set in Teesside is about to begin a nationwide tour.

Miss Crispy 1988 proved such a hit when it premiered at Middlesbrough Theatre last year, the play is back with a tour and its opening night is tomorrow.

Written and directed by David Tuffnell, who grew up in Linthorpe, Middlesbrough, it tells the story of a beauty pageant with a difference.
It is based on a series of interviews with women who worked in the KP Foods Factory in Billingham although the characters and storyline is fictional.

“It is based in Middlesbrough and it namechecks places such as Romer Parrish and events that did happen but the characters are fictional,” said David, 34, who now lives in Tollesby, Middlesbrough.

“I was inspired by a photograph I saw in the Gazette’s Remember When.

“It was a picture of a lady who had won KP Foods 1988 and that’s where the initial idea came from. I decided to write a play about a beauty pageant set in an everyday kind of job.

“By chance I knew someone whose mother had worked in the factory and she gave me a couple of stories.
“I then spent time researching the time - pop culture, news stories at that time.

“It’s the first thing I’ve written and it took me about a year to finish it. One of the most important things to me was to keep its setting in Middlesbrough. There is a local attitude of ‘just getting on with it’ which people in Middlesbrough, in Teesside are like.”
The play is set in a factory and features a group of five women who dream of something more exciting in their lives.
Sarah, Denise and everyone else who works on Line 2 want a change because life can’t be all about packets of cheese and onion crisps.
It is set at the end of 1987 and the start of 1988.

The production is presented by less is MORE Productions, which is dedicated to making opportunities for young performers in the North-east and helping to develop original theatre artists.

It was set up in 2009 by Laura Lonsdale, also from Middlesbrough, and David, who studied together at ALRA and LAMDA.
Miss Crispy 1988 opens at Theatre Royal in Newcastle tomorrow and runs until Saturday and will also be performed at Danby Village Hall - where the promotional film was made, Customs House in South Shields and Blackfriar Arts Centre in Lincolnshire.

  1. Victoria Holtom
    Victoria Holtom
  2. Phil Chamberlain
    Phil Chamberlain
  3. Laura Lonsdale
    Laura Lonsdale
  4. Wendie Middleton
    Wendie Middleton
  5. Ruth Carr
    Ruth Carr
  1. Jonny Jones
    Jonny Jones
  2. Doreen Frankland
    Doreen Frankland
  3. Kelly Jackson
    Kelly Jackson
  4. Stan Hodsgon
    Stan Hodsgon
  5. Nichola Lagan
    Nichola Lagan