Casting announced for Save Our School Dinners... Jamie!

Posted on 17 August 2018

Something unusual is on the menu here at the Belgrade Theatre next season! This September, we’ll be serving up a slice of homemade drama in Save Our School Dinners… Jamie!, lovingly cooked up by Midlands writer Paven Virk.

First seen at the Belgrade while still in development on International Women’s Day 2017, Save Our School Dinners… Jamie! now returns in a new and improved form, with a whole heap of fresh ingredients thrown into the mix – including a brilliant cast and creative team!

Shining a spotlight on the Midlands’ multicultural communities, this fun, feelgood story offers an authentic and down-to-earth celebration of diversity, following a group of dynamic dinner ladies, all living in the region but originating from all around the world. Inspired by celebrity chef and champion of quality school meals Jamie Oliver, this tenacious team step up to the plate when the only school in their small community is faced with disaster, taking it upon themselves to save the school one inventive dinner at a time – anyone for curry mash?

Leading this brand new production will be director Alison Belbin, an established theatre-maker with 35 years experience as a performer, writer/deviser, director and workshop leader. Since graduating from the University of Birmingham in 1983, she has performed in shows for Birmingham REP, Women and Theatre, Sante and Little Angel Theatre, Hearth, Foursight, Red Ladder, Moving Hands and Pentabus. Her TV credits include Doctors, Emmerdale and Switch. In 2016, she won the BBC’s Norman Beaton Fellowship, leading to a six-month contract with the BBC Radio Drama Company, with credits including Northanger Abbey and Clare in the Community.

Casting for the show includes Elizabeth Adejimi, who graduated from the University of Northampton in 2016, and is currently a member of the Project Phakama UK Youth Board. Since graduating, she has worked and trained with Stage Coach, Dream Arts London, Halfmoon Theatre and A-Team Arts, and has performed at venues including Royal and Derngate, Cochrane Theatre and Wembley SSE Arena.

Playing newbie dinner lady Althea will be Nunt Ruddit, who trained at the Guildford School of Acting and Lasalle College of the Arts. Credits while training include Helen in Carrie and Laurie and Gertie in the Oklahoma Project for GSA, and Cinderella in Into the Woods. She has also worked as a voiceover artist for range of production companies.

Tonia Daley-Campbell also joins the cast as “Glorious Gloria”. Her TV credits include Mrs Patterson in Lenny Henry’s Danny and the Human Zoo, Mother in Prisoner’s Wife and film credits include Mamma Letty in London Town and Foster Mother in the RTS Award-nominated short film Giants. Stage credits include Sorry, No Coloureds, Jamaica 50 and The Sistren for Gazebo Theatre, Cracked for Sante Theatre.

Claire Cogan who plays dinner lady Trisha, is an actress from Northern Ireland, now living in Leicester. She has recently completed a 4 month tour of America with the acclaimed Northern Irish Theatre Company CahootsNI, in their award winning show, Shh We Have a Plan. Other theatre credits include Mind Games, Freedom of The City, Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Cherry Orchard, Secret Door, Beasts, Head/case, Lags, The Coventry Mystery plays, The New Electric Ballroom, Gilgamesh, The Way Home, Charlotte’s Web, The Threepenny Opera and Factory Girls. Film and TV include Wild About Harry, Conversations Matter, It Helps To Talk, Irish Premier Shorts.

Completing the cast as the Headteacher is Laurence Saunders, who was nominated for Villain of the Year in the British Soap Awards for his recurring role in Doctors. Other TV and film credits include Doctor Who, Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights, The Village, EastEnders, Line of Duty, The Seasoning House, The Snarling, Wounded and The Quiet One.

Theatre credits include Jump! We’ll Catch You and Accidental Brummie for Birmingham REP, The Dancing Club national tour, There is None who Does Good for the Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton, The Tell-Tale Heart for Little Earthquake on tour, Cov at The Old Red Lion Theatre, Lags at Theatre 503, The Bad One for Women & Theatre on tour, Wings of Desire at the International Dance Festival Birmingham, Up N Under for Redditch Palace Theatre and Diary of a Somebody at mac Birmingham. Radio includes The Archers _ and _Silver Street. He has also performed as a stand-up comedian, musician and improviser, and once made his living as a professional biscuit taster! Mmmm, custard creams…

Playwright Paven Virk said:_ “I knew I wanted to write a full play representing fresh voices and an array of strong female characters with a universal connection through food. Having recently becoming a mother I knew I had to do something about how class, cultural backgrounds and even your postcode helps form your child’s future. My way of exploring this was through these women who become more than a dinner lady to a child.”_

“Since becoming a mum and relocating back home to Coventry, where I began my career in the Belgrade Youth Theatre, I have increased my storytelling workshops and seen the impact it has on individuals and diverse communities. I believe if I can make theatre that is celebratory, relevant and diverse, I can be a role model for underrepresented communities making engagement and careers in the Arts seem more achievable.”

Paven Virk’s playwriting career began early when she founded the Second Generation Theatre Company at the age of just 15. Since then she’s gone on to have work shown at Hampstead Theatre, the National Theatre, Tricycle Theatre and the Old Rep as well as at the Belgrade Theatre.

She is an alumnus of the Royal Court Young Writers scheme, and has also taken part in Theatre Royal Stratford East’s Musical Writing residency, the National Theatre Writers’ attachment and Working Title Films’ prestigious writing residency at the Hay Festival. She is currently working on a new television drama series, and her first feature film is scheduled for shooting next year.

Save Our School Dinners… Jamie! runs at the Belgrade 12-15 September. Tickets are available to book now.