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BBC Dinnerladies cast now over 20 years on – Corrie favourite, Hollywood fame, tragic death and addiction troubles

The late Victoria Wood was known for many things when it came to her work as a comedian and actress and one of those things that was much-loved by fans was Dinnerladies.

The BBC comedy ran for two series between 1998 to 2000 and centred around the staff and customers of a canteen at a fictional factory in Manchester, named HWD Components, but with main character of Brenda Furlong, played by Victoria, at its heart.

At its peak. the show drew in 16 million viewers and was written entirely by Victoria, with no additional contributors or script editor. It also introduced viewers to many upcoming actresses who have gone on to become big names in Hollywood and in soaps such as Coronation Street.

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Back in January, it was 22 years since Dinerladies was last aired wile later this year in November, it will have been 25 years since we were introduced to Bren and given insight into her relationship with her sarcastic and exhausted canteen manager Tony Martin. So we thought we’d take a look back at the iconic show and see where some of its stars are now.

Victoria Wood – Bren



Victoria as Bren

The show’s creator and star Victoria Wood was nothing short of a comedy legend. Having already established herself as a comedy star in the 1980s, even winning a BAFTA TV Award in 1986 for the sketch series Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV, after dinnerladies she won two more BAFTA TV Awards, including Best Actress, for her 2006 television film, Housewife, 49.

The Prestwich-born star’s career continued to rise, she wrote her first musical, Acorn Antiques: The Musical!, which opened in 2005 at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, prior to penning Housewife 49. She appeared in more one-off specials, made a brief return to stand-up comedy and directed the television movie adaptation of That Day We Sang to name but a few.

In her personal life, she had also been married to TV magician Geoffrey Durham from 1980 to 2002 and they had two children together, Grace and Henry. However, Victoria tragically died on April 20, 2016 from cancer. at just 62. It has previously been reported that she spent her final days coming up with a hilarious comic routine about tidying her sock drawer.



Victoria tragically died in 2016

The multi BAFTA award-winning comedian, writer, director, actor and musician also spent her time watching MasterChef and listening to Radio 3 as she was cared for by her loved ones. The comedy legend wanted to keep working, a authorised biography Let’s Do It by Jasper Rees revealed.

In December 2019 a huge mural was unveiled in Prestwich village in tribute to Victoria, the work of acclaimed street artist Akse P19, who is also responsible for a painting of late Fall singer Mark E. Smith in the Bury village. with a last comedy sketch in her final days it has been revealed.

Thelma Barlow – Dolly



Thelma Barlow

Thelma Barlow was already known to viewers before appearing in dinnerladies thanks to various TV role including in Coronation Street. She is probably best known for playing Mavis Wilton in the ITV soap for a whopping 26 years from 1971 to 1997.

The character first appeared at Emily Nugent and Ernest Bishop’s engagement party before getting a job from Rita at the Kabin. Fast forward more than two decades and Mavis left Weatherfield to run a guest house in Cartmel following the death of her husband.

Mavis was a fan favourite, but Thelma, now 93, previously ruled out ever returning tothe soap, telling Distinct Nostalgia Podcast: “They’ve asked me back two or three times but I’ve said no because I feel I’ve packed Mavis away in a box now. I don’t think I’d know how to do her anyway. Maybe a good script would make me realise how I’d played the part.”

After roles in Doctor Who and Doc Martin, it seems that Thelma retired from acting, with her last appearance listed as Mrs Oscar Garmunder in the 2016 film Florence Foster Jenkins in which she had a small speaking role. However, in September last year she appeared as a guest in the television documentary Coronation Street Icons: Norris Cole, a documentary about the character played by Malcolm Hebden after the actor’s retirement.

In her personal life, the actress was married to Graham Barlow between 1956 to 1983 and they had two children together.

Anne Reid – Jean



Anne Reid

Anne Reid appeared a Jean in dinnerladies but was also a long-time collaborator of Victoria Wood’s. The actress, now 87, is also known for her roles as Valerie Barlow in Coronation Street from 1961 to 1971 and her role as Celia Dawson in Last Tango in Halifax for which she was nominated for the British Academy Television Award for Best Actress.

Prior to dinnerladies, Anne starred in the like of Doctor Who, The Bill, Heartbeat as well as various television films. She has since had a successful acting career on stage, appearing in productions such as A Little Night Music, Into The Woods and A Woman Of No Importance in 2017.

Anne has also starred in a long list of television shows with her most recent roles in SAS: Red Notice in 2021 and Last Tango in Halifax from 2016 to 2020 and has more work in the pipeline.

In her private life, the Newcastle-born star was widowed in 1981 when her husband Peter Eckersley, a television producer, died after 10 years of marriage. She has one child called Mark Eckersley and a stepson.

Andrew Dunn – Tony



Andrew in Coronation Street

Andrew Dunn’s most famous TV role was as Canteen Manager Tony in dinnerladies but like a lot of his fellow cast members, after the BBC One comedy Tony starred in Corrie. He played Janice Battersby’s love interest Roger Styles from 2006 to 2008, before the character was axed from the soap.

Andrew then turned to work on stage, appearing in a stage show of dinnerladies in 2009, as well as playing Gerald Cooper in the musical version of The Full Monty. His last noted TV appearances were in Doctors in 2011 and Law & Order: UK in 2010.

Maxine Peake – Twinkle



Maxine Peake

One of our own, Maxine Peake has had a stellar career since appearing as Twinkle in dinnerladies. While dinnerladies may have been the Westhoughton-born actress’ break-out role, she has gone on to become known for playing Veronica Ball in Channel 4 hit Shameless, Martha Costello in the BBC One legal drama Silk and Grace Middleton in the BBC’s The Village.

In more recent years she has appeared in a series of short films and programmes including Black Mirror, Talking Heads and most recently Anne and Rules of the Game, as well as starring in the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything.

As for her personal life, Maxine, 48, is in a long term relationship with her partner Pawlo Wintoniuk. The pair are said to have ditched London many years ago and now live in Salford.

Duncan Preston – Stan



Duncan Preston

Duncan Preston appeared Stan the handyman in dinnerladies but was another regular collaborator of comedian Victoria’s, having appeared as Clifford in Acorn Antiques. The actor later went on to appear in hit TV programmes including Love & Marriage, Heartbeat and Moving On.

He also had other notable roles as DS Todd in the soap opera EastEnders, Jonathan Haslam in the sitcom Surgical Spirit, playing Kevin’s dad in Harry Enfield and Chums, and soap fans may know him best for playing Doug Potts Emmerdale, a role he played for 2007 to 2011 before reprising the role in 2014 to 2020.

His most recent acting credit was this year when the 75-year-old, from Bradford, appeared in series 25 of Silent Witness. In his personal life, Duncan married Susan Penhaligon in 1986 but divorced in 1992. However, true love appears to have prevailed and the couple reconciled in 1997.

Shobna Gulati – Anita



Shobna Gulati

Fans may be surprised to know that Shobna Gulati rose to fame as Anita in dinnerladies, before taking on countless television roles. The actress, from Oldham, appeared in Doctor Who, Where The Heart Is and River City.

However, it is probably her role in Coronation Street that she is best known for. Shobna, now 55, played Sunita Alahan in the ITV soap from 2001 to when she was axed in 2006 before being brought back in 2009 to 2013.

Sunita, who was married to shop owner Dev Alahan, had a number of major storylines during her time in the programme. From escaping an arranged marriage and diagnosed with an aneurysm and a brain tumour, to being falsely imprisoned, held hostage and surviving a tram crash.

However, embarking on an affair with Karl Munro ended in disaster as Sunita succumbed to the injuries she sustained during the Rovers Return fire, caused by her illicit ex-lover. Shobna was written out the soap after she chose to quit. She has since taken on numerous roles, including the character Ray in the hit 2021 film Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. This year she appeared in Channel 4 comedy Hullraisers and also starred in Lenny Hentry’s BBC television film, My Name is Leon.



Shobna in Coronation Street

In her personal life, the actress was also married to Anshu Srivastava from 1990 to 1994 and they had one child together. Shobna has also had a difficult couple of years. In an interview with The Times last year, the former soap star said she thought she was going to die after contracting Covid.

“I couldn’t take a deep breath for three months. I was exhausted. I had to crawl upstairs on all fours,” she said. I was diagnosed with pneumonia and had three rounds of antibiotics. I just couldn’t get rid of it. There were times I thought: ‘If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die.'”

She has recently spoken about how her late mum never admitted she had dementia, despite suffering from the disease. Her mother Asha Gulati passed away in 2019 after battling the illness. She said on Loose Women how her mum kept her condition a ‘secret’, adding that she ‘didn’t want to admit to her mental illness at all.’

Celia Imrie – Phillipa



Celia Imrie

Celia Imrie already had a notable acting career before playing HR Manager Philipa in the hit BBC show. She is known for her work with Victoria Wood, including Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV (1985–1987), as well as dinnerladies (1998–2000) and Acorn Antiques: The Musical!, for which she won the 2006 Laurence Olivier Award for B est Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical.

The now 70-year-old actress has an extensive list of TV and film credits and is probably best recognised for her appearances in the Bridget Jones film series, Calendar Girls, Nanny McPhee, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

She was last seen on the big screen in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and Nativity Rocks! This Ain’t No Silent Night, both in 2018, while in 2020 she starred as Rose Fairchild in the third series of BBC’s Keeping Faith.

Not much is known about Celia’s private life. However, we do know she has a son, Angus Imrie, with the actor Benjamin Whitrow. Angus, 27, is also an actor known for portraying the character Josh Archer in BBC Radio 4’s long-running drama serial The Archers.

Sue Devaney – Jane



Sue Devaney

Sue Devaney’s career started back in 1983, more than 10 years before she appeared as Planning Department member Jane in dinnerladies. One of her first big roles was in Coronation Street where she played Debbie Webster. She has since reprised the role, returning to the famous street in 2019.

She has also had rival soap roles in Emmerdale as a midwife and in The Royal, as well as starring in Shameless and Years and Years to name but a few. Sue will also been best recognised for playing Rita in Jonny Briggs and Liz Harker in Casualty.

Back in 2020 Sue opened up about her own experience of addiction and mental health problems to raise awareness about homelessness. “I am lucky. I got help,” the Ashton-born actress told the Manchester Evening News as she teamed up with Big Issue North to support their then-new publication, The New Issue.

“I had the disease of more, more, more… more drink, more sugar, just an insatiable appetite for the bad things in life. Nothing in moderation, everything in excess. I attracted the wrong type of folk. Am I less of a person for having the disease of addiction? I am not. So are they less of a person for using drugs and alcohol to cope?”

Julie Walters – Petula



Julie Walters

Julie Walters played Petula in dinnerladies, who was Bren’s mother, but it’s fair to say she’s known for a plethora of award-winning film roles. The actress has won four British Academy Television Awards, two British Academy Film Awards, two International Emmy Awards, a BAFTA Fellowship, and a Golden Globe.

She has also been nominated twice for an Academy Award: once for Best Actress and once for Best Supporting Actress. She rose to fame playing the title role in Educating Rita, a role which she originated in West End theatre. She also collaborated with Victoria Wood on several television shows.

Her last credited film role was in 2020 when she played Mrs Medlock The Secret Garden, the fourth film adaptation of the novel of the same name. As for TV, this year she narrated BBC documentary, The Queen: 70 Glorious Years, to mark the monarch’s Platinum jubilee. Last year she had a voice role in Terry Pratchett’s The Abominable Snow Baby but last acted on the small screen in National Treasure in 2016.

In 2018 Jule was diagnosed with stage III bowel cancer. She went on to have surgery and chemotherapy, before entering remission. She did not announce her illness to the public until February 2020, when she said in an interview with Victoria Derbyshire that she would be taking a step back from acting, particularly from large and demanding film roles.

The actress is also married to Grant Roffey and the couple have one daughter together called Maisie.

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