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Brief Encounter With ... Sue Devaney

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Sue Devaney is a well known face on stage and screen. She was recently seen in Aladdin at the Opera House, and appeared at the Lowry in Girls' Night Out. Coronation Street fans will remember her as Kevin Webster's little sister and she has also starred in Casualty and the hit situation comedy, Dinnerladies. She returns to the role of Jane, the toast lover in a new stage version of Victoria Wood's comedy set in an office canteen. Dinnerladies stops at the Palace Theatre later this month, following a run at the Lowry. We caught up with Sue to talk about the show and her love of the Northwest.

Victoria Wood's
Dinnerladies is classic TV sitcom. What similarities and differences can we expect now that it has been adapted for the stage?
I think it is very similar actually. The main difference is between the stage and television. For television, the camera is able to focus on the person talking, whereas with theatre you have to create a focus point. Victoria Wood’s work is very fast, very ‘pacey’, so you’ve got to slow the pace down a little in theatre. The humour is definitely still there though! Also, the show is set between the months of April and December and on the telly the date is made clear. For the show, a big screen is used instead.

Andrew Dunn, who plays Tony, is in a similar situation to you, in that he too appeared in the sitcom version. How are the other actors/actresses fitting into their roles and how do you feel they compare and contrast with the originals?
The actors are really brilliant- they are able to mimic the actors that did the original series. The girl that plays Victoria Wood’s character, Brenn, is amazing. She literally does an impression, which I certainly wouldn’t be able to do! I take my hat off to them all. I couldn’t just ‘do a Julie Walters!’ They do still make it their own though.

The show is mainly based on the second series of the award winning comedy- however, are there any surprise twists that we can look forward to?
Erm, no surprise twists! Well the elements of the show with Bren’s mum in are hysterical. She pops in and out of scenes and is absolutely hilarious!

Even as a television series, Dinnerladies was performed in front of a live studio audience. Do you find the atmosphere of a theatre audience any different to that of a television one?
Always. Theatre audiences are always different to telly ones. Even though you have a live audience in sitcom, you’ve still got cameras in the way and mistakes being made, which need to be corrected. When people come to see a show they get all dolled up and have a meal, so there’s a totally different atmosphere. You do play to both audiences though.

Coming from Ashton-Under-Lyne and treading the cobbles of Coronation Street as Debbie Webster, you will have collated many Manchester memories. What have been your Northern highlights to date?
Too many, too many to mention! When I was 16 I was in Corrie and by 17 I had moved down to London, where I stayed for ten years. I did one of my most favourite jobs early on, playing Ruby in When We Are Married at Whitehall Theatre. Whilst I was in London, I lived with actress Patricia Hayes for seven years. She was my mentor and was absolutely wonderful! She’s unfortunately died now but she was a brilliant actress. Then I moved to Bristol for Casualty. But I’ve moved back now and love it! Although I was born in Ashton- Under- Lyne I’m really a Rochdale girl, as that’s where I moved. I did panto a lot there. I just love coming home- I’m really close to my brother and sister and I have a naughty niece as well!

What do you like about performing in the Northwest?
I love it! It’s great because my friends can come and see me and I can go home at night and sleep in my own bed. Having your own space is lovely!

Comedy is obviously something that comes naturally to you, many of your previous parts requiring humour. Have you had anybody inspire your talent?
Yes, I have. Patricia Hayes, the lady I lived with in London. She won a BAFTA for her performance as Edna the Inebriated woman when she was 50- odd. I met her when she was 76 and she was fantastic! She’s been an inspiration to me. Patricia Routledge has inspired me as well. Also, all the actors I work with, as they are just so good at what they do.

Finally, why should people come and watch Dinnerladies?
I think because it’s good entertainment. People want to laugh with problems like the credit crunch and they are guaranteed it. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people and it’s great to be able to go out and just be entertained. It’s a ‘feel good’ show and people will enjoy it- especially if they are fans of Victoria Wood.

Sue Devaney was speaking to Rebecca Cohen.

Dinnerladies runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester  from 21 - 26 June.


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