It only ran for 16 episodes, but the sitcom Dinnerladies is still remembered with great affection – both by armchair aficionados and its cast.
A new three-part documentary, Dinnerladies Diaries, is inspired by the actual journals of the late Victoria Wood and brings the former stars of the show together again to reminisce about making the series.
In the meantime, read on to find out what has happened to the canteen staff of HWD Components since the show ended in 2000.
Brenda – Victoria Wood
Canteen deputy manager ‘Bren’, the sounding-board for the other characters who nonetheless had self-esteem issues, was played by series creator, writer and co-producer Victoria Wood. She also wrote and performed the show’s theme song, and it is her diaries that form the basis of the documentary on Gold.
A much-loved comedian, songwriter and performer, Wood went on to win two Baftas for writing and starring in the acclaimed 2006 drama Housewife, 49. Sadly she passed away aged just 62 in 2016.
Tony – Andrew Dunn
The stressed and sarcastic canteen manager Tony Martin, who was played by Yorkshire-born actor Andrew Dunn, spent most of the first series of Dinnerladies battling cancer and trying to hide his affection for Bren. They eventually became a couple in series two.
Dunn went on to play regular roles in both The Bill and Coronation Street, and appeared in several series of the satire show Bremner, Bird and Fortune playing Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell. He played Gerald in the 2014 touring production of The Full Monty, and is about to be seen in British movie Ravenscar. He lives in York.
Dolly – Thelma Barlow
The prim, Daily Mail-reading Dolly was played by Thelma Barlow, already a British television legend thanks to her portrayal of Coronation Street stalwart Mavis Riley for over 25 years.
Barlow continued to appear in major TV shows after Dinnerladies ended, including Fat Friends, The Royal, Midsomer Murders, Doctor Who and Doc Martin. Most recently she was seen in the feature film Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep. Now 88 years old, she lives in Dorset.
Jean – Anne Reid
Dolly’s best friend – though often the butt of her cutting remarks – the frustrated Jean would eventually settle down with maintenance man Stan. Anne Reid had had a long and successful career before being cast as Jean, and was another Coronation Street alumnus.
Reid went on to regular roles in Life Begins, The Jury and Last Tango in Halifax, as well as appearing in Hot Fuzz and starring in the controversial film The Mother opposite Daniel Craig. Still working regularly in her eighties, she can currently be seen in BBC sitcom Hold the Sunset.
Anita – Shobna Gulati
The sweet but rather dim-witted Anita, who would end up having a baby after a one-night stand with her decorator, was played by actress, presenter and film maker Shobna Gulati in what was only her second TV role; her first was in Victoria Wood’s detective spoof, Wetty Hainthropp Investigates.
Since Dinnerladies came to an end, Gulati has played recurring characters in EastEnders, Where the Heart Is and Doctors, as well as playing Sunita in Coronation Street from 2001 to 2013. She has been a quiz and panel show regular, is currently appearing in the BBC’s Glasgow-based soap River City, and guested in one episode of Hold the Sunset with fellow Dinnerladies star Anne Reid.
Twinkle – Maxine Peake
The youngest member of the canteen staff, Twinkle was a boisterous Mancunian with a sharp tongue who liked a drink. She was played by Manchester-born actress Maxine Peake, then early in her career with a few television credits including – you’ve guessed it – Coronation Street.
Peake went on to major roles in Shameless, Silk and The Village, and played Moors Murderer Myra Hindley in controversial miniseries See No Evil. She’s appeared in numerous movies, had a varied stage career (including playing the title role in Hamlet), and written two radio plays. She is soon to be seen in Mike Leigh’s new film Peterloo.
Stan – Duncan Preston
The well-meaning but somewhat old fashioned Stan, like Bren somewhat hampered by caring for an aged parent, was played by Wood’s long-time collaborator Duncan Preston. He had appeared in her TV play Happy Since I Met You, alongside Julie Walters, in 1981 and was a regular in her series As Seen On TV – most notably playing Mr Clifford in her mock-soap Acorn Antiques.
Preston has subsequently guest starred in numerous popular television series, including Peak Practice, Holby City, Heartbeat and Moving On, as well as the obligatory stint on Coronation Street. He is now playing series regular Doug Potts in Emmerdale.
Philippa – Celia Imrie
The highly-disorganised HR manager of the factory in which the series is set, Philippa is the only character in the series from the South of England. She was played by another of Victoria Wood’s ‘regulars’, Celia Imrie, who was the unforgettable Miss Babs in Acorn Antiques.
Imrie has had a highly successful career since Dinnerladies, appearing in movies including Bridget Jones’ Diary (and its sequels), Calendar Girls, Nanny McPhee and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as well as numerous TV series, most recently the US sitcom Better Things. She’s currently in cinemas as a member of the cast of British film Finding Your Feet.
Dinnerladies Diaries premieres on Wednesday, March 14th at 8pm on Gold – BT TV channel 310.
BT TV customers can catch up on episodes they miss on the BT Player.
Gold is one of 60 premium channels available on BT TV along with other channels such as E!, Comedy Central, National Geographic and many more.