Jamie's School Dinners (C4)

Masterchef Goes Large (BBC2)

WHETHER you like him or not, you have to admit that Jamie Oliver never takes the easy option. Having survived teaching a bunch of unemployed teenagers to become chefs, he's embarked on a fresh project that looks like being even tougher.

His mission impossible is to improve school dinners, which have always been a bit of a joke as long as I can remember. He wants kids to eat better food and grow up healthier. Noble ambitions, but ones that have to be done at just 37p a meal.

Like a lot of other things, it all comes down to money. Jamie's first efforts to replace the processed burgers, fish fingers and chips that feature on school dinner menus weren't encouraging. Thai curry and noodles at £1.10 a portion earned him a ticking off from the headteacher, who pointed out that any overspend had to come out of her budget. His overpriced food would mean cuts in staffing or books.

I felt sorry for him as he had his wife moaning in the other ear - by phone - for not spending enough time with his own two children, as he's cooking school meals by day as well as running his own restaurant by night.

He was also battling Nora, chief dinner lady at a South London school. She cooks cheap junk food, not only because it's all she can afford but it's what the pupils want. She can't give away vegetables. Faced with a choice between her reconstituted food and Jamie's healthier options, most opted for Nora's meals. He ended up hiding the vegetables under a sauce to fool them.

A nutritionist revealed how unhealthy school dinners are. They could make children ill through too much salt, too much fat and too many additives. They're more likely to be ill and take time off school because of their diet, and their concentration could be affected when they're in class. And that's not to mention the increased risk of everything from cancer to heart disease.

Jamie was not impressed. Hungry after a day in the school kitchen, he told his restaurant staff, "I'll eat a dog's arse if you give it me. It would be nicer than school dinners."

The cooking continued as Masterchef returned with a new, breathless format. It's more like Pop Idol crossed with Hell's Kitchen now as contestants are required to invent a dish, survive the pressures of working in a professional kitchen and cook a two-course meal in 50 minutes.

Three of the six are sent home after the first round. Judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace don't just say nice things about the recipes. "I don't like the look of the Trill on the top," Wallace said of one breadcrumbed dish.

The Pillowman,

Newcastle Theatre Royal

WARNING: parts of this play describing child torture and murder and offering scenes of parents abusing a child and on-stage smotherings are deeply disturbing.

I have no doubt that Anglo-Irish writer Martin McDonagh has all the correct credentials and ticks every box as far as this Olivier Award winning work from The National Theatre is concerned. I still came away with the image of the creator gleefully hacking away at the bottom of Pandora's box. McDonagh's work has been described as Grimm's Fairytales for grown-ups with a distinct touch of Pinter and Orton. Well it's a lot Grimmer than that. He invents a police state where officers Tupolski (Jim Norton) and Ariel (Ewan Stewart) are unfettered in their pursuit of a triple child-killer. Their target is Katurian (Lee Ingleby), the creator of 400 macabre short stories mostly concerning young death, and his disabled brother Michael (Edward Hogg). Not only do we have to endure Michael being dismissed as a spastic, but Katurian's howls of innocence are silenced when his brother admits he was researching the validity of the teeth-gritting stories.

The fact that most of the audience viewed McDonagh's plot in stunned silence gives a fair assessment of its effect. The use of gallows humour occasionally breaks into this dark journey towards the nightmare world that the more sensitive don't regard as entertainment. Perhaps The NT might have approached all this a little differently if the action had been set inside a Sikh Temple?

l Runs until Saturday. Box Office: 0870 905 5060

Viv Hardwick

The Play What I Wrote, Grand Opera House, York

THE Play What I Wrote is both a dissection of double acts and a celebration of Morecambe & Wise.

Written by The Right Size comic coupling of Sean Foley and Hamish McColl in tandem with Eddie Braben, the chap what wrote little Ern's plays, this fizzing comedy is now in the hands of jocund actors Clive Hayward and Kim Wall. They play troubled double act Hayward & Wall. Wall, the shorter, prickly one, has grown jealous of Hayward, the tall one with the gags, and insists the partnership will continue only if they present his serious new play, a French Revolution epic with a guest star.

Through elaborate deceptions, Hayward and oleaginous producer David Pugh (Andy Williams) dupe Wall into thinking the play will be presented at last. In reality, Hayward has signed up the comic duo for a Morecambe & Wise tribute.

The delirious comedy acquires a fifth gear with the arrival each night of a surprise guest. On Monday, Honor Blackman, glory be, was subjected with grace and good humour to humiliation at the hands of both Wall's hapless script and Hayward's comical distractions.

The show is both a delightful nostalgic re-creation of Eric and Ernie's comic sunshine and a smart analysis of the complex chemistry and vulnerability of double acts. The happy conclusion finds Hayward and Wall abed, just like Morecambe and Wise, affirming why each needs the other.

l Runs until Saturday. Box office: 0870 606 3590.

Charles Hutchinson