Friday, 24 March 2017

Preview of tonight's double Coronation Street - Fri 24 March

Friday 24th March 2017
PETER AND TOYAH ARE GAZUMPED As Peter helps Toyah with her IVF injection she tries to bury her suspicions about the money. Meanwhile when a cash buyer arrives at the pub, Peter’s stunned to see it’s Chloe and Steve and Liz are considering her offer. Peter angrily steers Chloe outside and orders her to stay away from both him and the street. Ken clocks their exchange. Finding Chloe alone Ken approaches her. Chloe explains she’s had a row with her boyfriend Peter. Taken aback Ken invites her back to no.1 to talk.
SINEAD GOES IT ALONE Daniel searches in vain for Sinead, while Beth worries about her niece. Ken apologises to Daniel and assures him he only wants what’s best for him. When Daniel reveals that Sinead is pregnant and he loves her very much, Ken feels terrible.
SEB MAKES THINGS WORSE FOR HIMSELF WITH FAYE  Anna orders Seb to stay away from Faye. Seb attempts to apologise to Faye for his behaviour but worried Anna will see them Faye rushes inside.
ELSEWHERE Tracy’s deflated when the bank turn down her loan application for the florists. She begs Ken to lend her the money but is left fuming when he disagrees. Todd forms a plan to wind up Phelan and pretend there’s ghostly goings on in the builders flat.

Friday 24th March 2017
KEN DROPS A BOMBSHELL ON TOYAH Chloe spreads her poison, telling Ken how she and Peter are having an affair, he’s drinking again, she loaned him £2k and she’s planning to buy the pub simply to stop Peter from ruining his life. Ken’s horrified and with heavy heart breaks the news to Toyah of Peter’s drinking and affair. Will Toyah believe what she’s being told about Peter?    
SINEAD HAS BIG NEWS FOR DANIEL In tears, Sinead tells Daniel she’s had a miscarriage and he’s free to go to Oxford. Daniel hugs her, devastated.
TRACY’S RESENTMENT TO KEN CONTINUES TO GROW Having bought an old violin, Amy then smashes it up before duping Ken into giving her £200 for a replacement, promising she’ll play at the community centre concert on Monday. Meanwhile Tracy finds Ken’s will at No.1. Will she look inside?

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The fall of the House of Barlow

Well, it has to be said that the Street is an interesting place these days. The last few months have seen the dramatic equivalent of an adrenalin boost for a soap that, during 2016, had shown signs of stodginess. It was sweating like a fat man in a pie shop. And then came Dame Kate of Oates with her lovely new broom.

Twenty years ago the much-derided Brian Park delivered a swift one up the jacksie of a very tired looking Corrie. He despatched characters whose story had long since been told and shook up the lives of those that remained. Fast forward to 2017 and off we go again. Like Park, Kate Oates has taken a wrecking ball to some aspects of the show. The Macdonald Years, at least in their current form, at the Rovers appear to be over. Here's hoping that she doesn't impose another Stella Price on us because that wouldn't  be a very nice thing to do, would it boys and girls? No doubt Liz and co will be back at some point but for now, the Steve and Michelle tale needs to be brought to a close. We will miss 'chelle and her 'face like a thousand wars' behind the bar . . . said no one, ever.

More interesting though is the saga being played out at number one. How we were lead merrily down the garden path last year. There was poor old Ken, seemingly on the way out but then buoyed and rejuvenated by the return of his disparate (some would say desperate) family. The matriarchal days of Blanche, Deirdre and Tracy made way for a mellower Peter, angry Adam and his fey winter coat and Ken Junior, the erudite Daniel. Could they all forge a familial bond and relaunch the House of Barlow? Not a chance.

Rather than opt for cosy homespun stories and loving memories, the Barlows have set upon a course of mutual self-destruction. At the centre, as always, in Ken. By that I really mean 'self-centred' because it's always been about Ken, what affects him and what he feels others should be doing with their lives. New Ken is a nasty piece of work though. He's no lovely old grandad, rather a mean-spirited old grump, peering at his family from that horrible chair wedged next to the wall unit.

Ken seems, quite rightly, vexed by his entire brood of whom Tracy has suddenly emerged as the voice of reason. Peter yet again battles his numerous addictions and yet this nicotine-stained middle aged alcoholic manages to attract women left, right and centre. At one end of the scale, Toyah in a floor-length cardigan and at the other, a Stockport bunny boiler with a penchant for taxis.

The we have the unlikely pairing of Daniel and Sinead, the former momentarily bound for Oxford but now happy to shack up with a soap-maker whose soul was rendered dead from years of domestic bliss with 'misery loves company', Chesney. Maybe love will flourish in the corner shop flat but let's be honest, there's not much of a spark there.

As for Adam? Well, in he sauntered, all guns blazing, as Son of Mike. It didn't last long though. Attempts to bully Aiden (Aiden? Adam? Eva? How about we add an Ada for good measure?) failed. Yes, Adam was bested by someone with a winter coat camper than his own. At this rate, we can expect Pat Phelan teetering across the cobbles in a Vera Wang gown by summer. No, Adam tried to play the big man, he cheated at his exams, managed to cause the usually morally reprehensible Todd to sneer at him and worse of all, disappointed King Lear . . . sorry, Ken.

Where's it all going then? Perhaps as the lovely Blanche once mused, to hell in a handcart. A handcart pushed by Ken. It would be a little grim to have him alienate his entire clan and then die, although it would give them food for thought. Ever decreasing circles for Peter, no doubt a period of nastiness from Adam, Daniel trying to teach Sinead how to complete a six piece jigsaw puzzle and Tracy proving that what doesn't come with age is maturity. And I've not even mentioned Amy.

Vive le Barlows! At least for a little while longer.

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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Don't forget the older generation, Corrie


This blog stems from a conversation I had with the actress Rita May a few weeks back. I interviewed Rita about her time playing Connie Rathbone in Coronation Street a few years ago as well as finding out more about her first novel. You can read that interview here.

Anyway, Rita is a fine actress with many impressive credits to her name. After we spoke she was rushing off for filming on a new Channel 4 series, so she's still in demand as she reaches her mid-70s. And why should she not be, with all her talent and natural gift for screen acting. Rita wasn't bitter about not being kept on in Corrie once Bill Tarmey's character Jack Duckworth had been written out, she just saw it as a missed opportunity. Rita enjoyed working on Coronation Street, liked the company of the cast and crew and would happily have stayed on in the role. Unlike many of the other former Corrie actors I've spoken to recently, Rita would still consider reviving her role as Connie as she believed there were many stories still untold.


This brought up the bigger issue of whether Coronation Street truly represents a community or the audience it hopes to attract. Rita May agreed with me that it was hard for a show like Corrie to remain relevant and chase the ratings in this multi-channel world. However we both also agreed that it's a shame Corrie has moved so far away from its roots. There was a time in the late 1990s when Coronation Street made a noticeable body swerve. It's true that by 1996 things were looking rather stale with slow-moving stories and a fair few characters which were to the beige side of interesting. The arrival of Brian Park in 1997 saw many changes, some quite obviously for the better. The Street became a much more youthful place with a range of more modern, younger characters taking up residence to spice things up.

I don't remember having a problem with that at the time as Corrie desperately needed pulling into the 21st Century if it was to survive. There are many younger actors in Corrie that I admire. Jack P Shepherd can do no wrong and as David Platt, he's grown and matured on screen, both as an actor and a character. Lucy Fallon has also been consistently impressive as the new, grown up Bethany, handling some challenging scenes of late. I love Mikey North as Gary, Qasim Akhtar as Zeedan, Elle Mulvaney as Amy and Rob Mallard as Daniel. They are all vital components of my current Corrie viewing. 


The issue of diversity has long dogged Coronation Street. It's still a problem in 2017. We didn't have a regular gay character until 2003/04 and it was more recently than that that we got a lesbian character in Sophie Webster. It's true Corrie led the way with Julie Hesmondhalgh's wonderful portrayal of Hayley Cropper but the soap still struggles to realistically portray ethnic groups. Weatherfield is still too white. However another area of diversity which Corrie struggles with these days is representing what it used to excel at - older people. Even when Brian Park started to introduce younger characters in the late 1990s we still had a balanced core cast of characters which included many of the older generation. Sadly by the new century we started to lose some of the actors who'd been so loyal to the Street for many years with the deaths of Betty Driver, Maggie Jones and Bill Tarmey as well as exits for Liz Dawn, Amanda Barrie and Johnny Briggs.These departures cannot be helped but what the show has failed to do is rebuild a community of realistic older characters.

I know we still have Bill Roache heading up the show as elder statesman Ken Barlow. However with Anne Kirkbride so sadly no longer with us and Eileen Derbyshire showing no signs of a return, his presence is looking somewhat isolated these days. Barbara Knox and Sue Nicholls still appear but not as regularly or in substantial storylines of their own. We still have Malcolm Hebden's gloriously bitchy Norris Cole and i'm glad of that. I was pleased when Derek Griffiths joined as Freddie Smith but his Coronation Street journey is nearly at an end already. And sadly that's about it. 

The Street needs older characters to broaden the storytelling out, add different dimensions and perspectives and appeal to more than just a younger audience who mostly don't watch television in the traditional way these days anyway. Coronation Street has a large and loyal audience, many of whom still remember the early days of black and white, of Ena, Minnie and Martha in the snug, of Annie Walker, imperious behind the bar and Elsie Tanner picking up the milk from the front step in something deliciously unsuitable. 


I'm not saying we should return to the days when the cast had an average age of 72. I just think in times which see a growing, vibrant older population in this country, people who still live, love and have problems only they can explain, Coronation Street needs to represent them. If they do it will add a depth to the Weatherfield story that sometimes nowadays we are sadly missing.

You can follow me on Twitter @GraemeN82

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Spoilers for next week's Coronation Street, Mar 27 - 31

Without any piffle, here are the storylines for the week ahead on Coronation Street, all wrapped up nicely in 50 words or less.

Monday 27 to Friday 31 March 2017

Toyah goes back to Toby, Peter starts drinking again?, Phelan threatens Todd, Rosie consider glamour modelling again, Brian and Cathy meet behind Roy's back, Sally's online troll plays an evil cancer prank.

See the full week's preview with pictures at

Missed last week's Corrie?
Catch up with the Coronation Street Weekly Updates

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Adrian Mole and the Early Acting of Chris Gascoyne, Aged 17¾

There are some links between Adrian Mole – one of England’s finest comedy characters – and Coronation Street that I have wanted to blog about for ages.

With Mole turning 50 in April and Penguin recently publishing ‘Adrian Mole The Collected Poems’ to mark World Poetry Day, now seems as good a time as any. 

For anyone unaware of Adrian Mole, he was created by Sue Townsend – who would become one of Britain’s favourite comic writers – and a series of books documenting his dysfunctional world were published between 1982 and 2009.

The books were written in diary form and the first two, ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾’ (1982) and ‘The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole’ (1985) provided an absolutely hilarious account of what it is like to be an adolescent boy, not to mention a biting social commentary on Thatcher’s Britain.

Set mainly in Leicester (well, Ashby-de-la-Zouch), the books followed the daily dramas and misadventures of Adrian’s teenage years and later his adult life during New Labour. They were simply brilliant – laugh-out-loud funny and also deeply moving and profound, pricking the nation’s conscience.

Perennially put-upon and unlucky in love, Adrian was one of life's losers. His dream was to be a writer and like a young Ken Barlow, he spent his days writing tedious prose that would never see the light of day. 

That said, at least the manuscript to Adrian Mole’s unpublished novel ‘Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland’ (later retitled ‘Birdwatching’) remains unburned.

Adrian was also an aspiring poet and he has finally had his work published. For the first time in a single volume, the very slim tome from Penguin gives us “the collected poems of misunderstood intellectual and tortured poet Adrian Mole”.

I would highly recommend it. It is a body of work that Daniel Barlow – one of the most naturally gifted students his lecturer has ever taught – could only dream of producing, especially now that he’s given up on Oxford.

I can’t be sure that Sue Townsend was a Corrie fan but I’d like to think that she was. Our beloved soap made it into a few of Adrian’s diary entries over the years.

For instance, on Wednesday February 2nd (1983), Adrian states: “Lucas [a neighbour who had an affair with his mother] turned up on our doorstep halfway through Coronation Street demanding to see Rosie” (The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole). 

On Thursday October 31st (1991) Adrian notes: “Ken Barlow of Coronation Street fame has been on trial for being boring. He was found ‘Not Guilty’ and awarded £50,000” (Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years).

On Wednesday 11th July (2007) Adrian remarks: “I happen to know that Mrs Wellbeck is an ardent follower of various soap operas. I have often heard her talking proprietorially about characters in Eastenders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale” (Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years).

Finally, on Tuesday 22nd April (2008), Adrian recalls a conversation with his half-brother: “Brett said, ‘I’ve been sickened by how Dad’s so-called family have treated him. Try to see beyond the wheelchair, Adrian. Dad is fully capable of making decisions, he is an intelligent man.’ I said, ‘Is that why he thinks the actors on Coronation Street make up their own dialogue?’” (Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years).

I love those references, which highlight to me exactly how important Coronation Street is within our national psyche. They also made me laugh when I read the books!

The first two Mole volumes were so successful they spawned a TV series. Both on ITV, ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾’ was broadcast in 1985 and the sequel ‘The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole’ followed in 1987.

The TV adaptation is notable for Corrie fans because it featured Chris Gascoyne in one of his first acting roles. Before Peter Barlow, the bad boy of Weatherfield, Chris played Barry Kent - the Neil Armstrong Comprehensive School bully who terrorised poor Moley, demanding money “with menaces”. Here’s a clip:

Chris is the only actor in the entire series that can pull off an East Midlands accent. He is from Nottinghamshire, mind. Still, no one else in the Mole adaptation – not even the superb Julie Walters – could avoid falling into the trap of a brummie accent.

With it being World Poetry Day, here is a clip of Barry Kent once again as Adrian recites his hard-hitting political poem ‘The Future’ in the school toilets:

Of course, in the books Barry Kent later displays a natural gift for poetry, which Adrian encourages. He soon regrets it when Baz goes on to become a successful poet, and the author of a hit novel ‘Dork's Diary’, which revolves around a loser by the name of Aiden Vole. Just Mole’s luck!

I’d love to know what Adrian Mole is up to these days. I bet he was delighted that Leicester City won the Premier League and incensed at the subsequent treatment of Claudio Ranieri. Whatever trials and tribulations he currently has to endure, like the rest of us, I bet he’s still watching Corrie. 

By Martin Leay
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Monday, 20 March 2017

Coronation Street Episode Review Monday 20th March

Sinead is looking at love-nests with Juliet balconies, but Ken is looking for at least one of his sons to "plant the Barlow flag on the summit of excellence", as Brian puts it. Ken organises a surpise party in the Bistro for Danny-boy, which which is definitely a surprise for Sinead (a place at Oxford!) and even more so for Ken (a baby!). Ken tries to get Sinead to end it with Daniel, telling her that Daniel'll start to resent her. Ken uses examples from his own life, decrying Deirdre's lack of intelligence, which upsets not only Sinead but (the eavesdropping) Tracy and Amy. Ironically, Sinead is the one who flies the coop, leaving Daniel with a note asking him not to contact her.

Peter lets Toyah believe that the regular customer that he's worried about is male, so she gives her blessing to her boyf going 'round to help "him" with the problems with "his" ex, which involves chains, although not in the way Chloe would like. She moves in for a kiss, which Peter (eventually) rejects, telling Chloe he can't see her any more. Toyah, in the worst blouse this side of Kate Connor's wardrobe, finds the money that Peter has saved from his tips that he claims he won on a horse called "Crazy Chloe".

Meanwhile Nick has come back, repentant after snogging Michelle, and agrees to let Steve have access to Oli/Oliver. Michelle, on the other hand, is persuaded not to tell Leanne about said snoggage and sashays off to Devon in a black cab. Let's hope Carla's paying the fare.

Phelan gives Seb a bit of advice - be less quick tempered: hot head never won fair maiden. BTW, isn't the ever moral Ken wondering why Evil Phelan has a 15 year old working on the Barlow kitchen (for free?) How long is Seb excluded from school for anyway? Anyway, he doesn't take Phelan's advice and lamps Jackson in the street, which leads to him being hauled off to junior chokey, Jackson's mum letting Anna know that Miley can't visit chez Windass any more, and Anna telling Fay(e) no more Seb.

And finally, Todd tries to persuade that the noise problems in Luke's flat are the ghosts of Tina and Michael haunting Pat. This could be fun, "like Amityville, with hotpot".

Rachel Stevenson - on twitter

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Coronation Street Blog Interview: Anne Cunningham


I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing the actress Anne Cunningham. Anne is a true Coronation Street original, having played Linda Cheveski, daughter of Street legend Elsie Tanner, in the very first episode of Corrie back on 9th December 1960. I wanted to find out more about how Anne started out as an actress, her experience of working on Coronation Street and also other aspects of her career.

First of all I'd love to know why and how you became an actor in the first place.

Not sure HOW I became an actor! Although born in England (Yorkshire) I was educated in South Africa and there was little theatre there except the National Theatre which needed you to be bi-lingual in Afrikaans and English. I did pass my exams in Afrikaans as a subject but was hardly fluent. However I had done “As You Like It” at school and the drama teacher suggested I might train as an actor in England at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama which offered a course combining a 2 year teaching course with a 2 year acting course in 3 years so that at the end as well as being a trained actor I was also a trained teacher. This appealed to my parents and I duly applied and was accepted. As it turns out I have never had to teach. 

How did you come to be cast in Coronation Street in the part of Linda?

I was appearing in weekly rep in Buxton as leading lady when the stage manager said he was asking the casting director from Granada to come and see the show as he had a small part in it. “Roar Like a Dove” So I sent a letter asking her to look at me too.
As luck would have it she wasn’t able to come that week but came the following one when I was playing TWO parts ( twins) in Grand National Night which needed Northern accents. I spoke to Margaret Morris in my dressing room during the interval whilst doing a quick change and hoped she’d remember me.
When back in London a couple of months later she contacted me and I met Stuart Latham at the Granada Offices in Golden Square in London. I was asked to do a test in Manchester. 


What are your memories of that first live episode of Coronation Street in December 1960?

I had never done television before. In fact I didn’t have a tv set! Having only ever done theatre “live television” was not much couldn’t stop! The only difference was acting to the camera.

The Tanners made an immediate impact in the show. What was it like to work with those actors?

I loved the first year of the Tanners. We were a real “family” spending time on and off the screen together. I still regard Philip (Lowrie, who played Dennis Tanner) as my brother (both being only-children) and I also see Ernst Walder (Ivan Cheveski) regularly although he now lives in his home country of Austria. 


Coronation Street had many memorable original characters. My favourites from that era are Annie and Jack Walker, played by Doris Speed and Arthur Leslie and Ena Sharples, played by Violet Carson. What were they like to work with?

Doris Speed, Arthur Leslie and Vi Carson were very much the older and respected members of the cast as were Margot Bryant and Lynne Carol.

In 1963 you played Judith in the film This Sporting Life, with Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts. What was that film like to be a part of?

I left the Street at the end of 1961 feeling that a year in a soap was long enough as there was so much I had yet to, West End, radio etc. As luck would have it the North was BIG ! Saturday Night Sunday Morning. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner etc. So it wasn’t too big a step when Lindsay Anderson cast me as Judith in This Sporting Life. I loved working with him. He had a way of directing an actor which made you feel YOU had thought of what he wanted so everything was relaxed and easy.
Also apart from Rachel I was the only girl on location and was very spoiled! 

In 1964 you worked with Roy Kinnear on the series World of His Own. What was Roy like to work with?

I had worked with David Croft on a Light Entertainment programme called “Impromptu” which was one of the first programmes on the new channel BBC 2. After the success of That Was The Week That Was Roy Kinnear was offered a show of his own to star in A World of His Own and David cast me as his wife. His character was to be called Stanley Blake and I was to be his wife Helen.
The set designer was called Darrol Blake and HIS father was called Stanley, so when he was asked to design the first set “Stanley Blake’s bedroom” he said “This is where I came in” !! I LOVED working with Roy. He was a very generous actor and a wonderful comic feed. We laughed so much during rehearsals...and during the takes...that I am surprised David Croft didn’t explode!...mind you he was good at laughing too!
Darrol only designed the first series but in 1965 I married him and am now Mrs Blake...again!

You have appeared in many classic television shows over the years, including The Avengers, Z Cars and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. Do you have fond memories of these programmes?

As a jobbing actor one had no idea which job would resonate with the audience and become “iconic”. It was just another job. The Avengers, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and Are You Being Served STILL produce an income of about £25 annually but I can’t say I remember them more than “Casanova” with Jeremy Brett “Poor Bitos” with John Neville or “The Physicists” with Roger Livesy and Mary Morris which were never seen again!

In 1973 you worked on a series of the Dick Emery Show. What was Dick like to work with?

Dick Emery was a nightmare to work with! A little man with all a little man’s complexes. Also he was Variety and jealous of any laughs not got by him! He would deliberately “fluff” if I got a laugh so that there would be a retake and the studio audience having heard the gag the first time wouldn’t laugh so much on the retake. 


You returned to Coronation Street in 1984 for a short stint. How did that experience compare with your time on the show in the 60s?

I can’t say I enjoyed my return to the Street in 84 as much as I had hoped. The director wondered if I could do the accent and the Green Room had grown so large that the regulars had little booths so there was little contact. There WERE still rehearsals, unlike now, so that you could get an idea of where you fitted into the whole episode but the ‘family” feeling had gone.

Do you still keep up with the Street today and would you ever consider returning to the show?

Hearing my friend Philip’s experience of life on the Street now I have no desire to return. 


Of all the roles you have played during your career, which are you most proud of and why?

My favourite part in my career has to be Helen Blake. It was a comedy role with many characters and a wide range of accents, working with a true gent and meeting the love of my life! We have just celebrated 51 years of happy marriage producing 3 daughters and 4 grandchildren! Success. 

I would like to thank Anne very much for taking the time to answer my questions. It really was a thrill to be in touch with someone who was there right at the beginning of one of my all time favourite television series. 

You can follow me on Twitter @GraemeN82 

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