Dishing up a second serving of dinnerladies

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More than 10 years after it left our TV screens, Dinnerladies will be once more serving up a slice of comedy when it’s brought to life on stage at the Sunderland Empire.

We spoke to original cast members Andrew Dunn and Sue Devaney.

DINNERLADIES is returning for second helpings with its most recent adaptation of the hit TV show.

Based on the second series of the show – there were only 16 episodes in total – it relives the trials and tribulations of a band of factory canteen staff.

One of the most memorable characters was divorced canteen manager Tony who forged a “will they, won’t they?” love story with Bren, played by the show’s writer, Victoria Wood.

Andrew Dunn is now reviving his role for the stage.

“The idea came about through David Graham who was the producer and director of Dinnerladies and had directed Victoria in a play called Talent many years ago,” he explained.

“He came up with the idea of adapting Dinnerladies for the stage and approached Victoria about it. She was busy so she let him get it together, but she gave it the final okay.”

The stage play, which comes to the Empire in May, is the second stage adaptation of the sitcom which ran from 1998-2000 on BBC One.

Andrew said: “The first play was based on Bren and Tony and their lust for each other, whereas this one is more to do with the factory closing down.

“It’s similar to the TV show as that was filmed in front of a live audience as well. There are technical differences, but with the TV show you had to wait for the audience to stop laughing before your next line, which is what happens in the theatre too.”

Despite its brief stint on TV – Wood wanted to end the show on a high – it proved popular with audiences for its subtle humour and portrayal of everyday life.

Andrew, who is also known for roles in 55 Degrees North, The Knock, and as Roger Stiles, Janice Battersby’s love interest in Coronation Street, said: “I think it was popular because Victoria’s writing was so dense and there was so much in each episode.

“I think when people watched it the first time they missed things because there was so much going on. It was a slow-burner in that sense.

“Her writing is something which everyone can relate to, she is very clever at that.”

Another original cast member reprising their role at fictional Manchester factory HWD Components is Sue Devaney as Jane.

A member of the planning department, Jane had only a minor role in the first series, usually ordering the toast round for meetings.

In the second series, she played a much more major part, having an ongoing wager with the canteen staff that Bren and Tony would or would not manage to “get it on” by Christmas Eve.

Sue – whose face, if not her name, is well-known after appearances in Coronation Street, Shameless, Casualty and Jonny Briggs – said: “I missed out on the first tour because Shobna Gulati was in it. She went back to Coronation Street though and I was asked if I would like to come back as Jane.

“This play is pretty much current because it’s about a factory closing down, but it’s funny too. I think when people go to the theatre they want a good belly laugh, to lose themselves for a couple of hours.”

l Dinnerladies will be at Sunderland Empire from May 9-14. Tickets costing £14.50-£29.50 are available from 0844 847 2499 or online at SunderlandEmpire.org.uk