Saturday, 27 August 2011

Here's to You, Mrs Roberts

It's a story as old as time itself.  Boy meets girl.  Girl introduces boy to another girl.  Second girl catches boy in a frock.  First girl flounces off in a huff.  Boy falls for second girl.  Girl falls for boy.  Boy borrows girl's make-up.  Girl criticises boy's choice of underwear.  Girl is blackmailed by conniving granddaughter in law.  Boy wanders into pub wearing a Per Una skirt and is surprised when Sally Webster spits out her Cinzano.  Girl admits she can't bear to live with a man wearing a nylon wig.  The end.

Let's face it: we've all been there.

It's another chapter in the book marked Audrey Roberts: My Hilarious Love Life.  Poor Audrey.  She's had a hard life.  A teenage mother (twice), she's had to put up with her husband dying, her best friend dying, and being related to both Gail and David.  Throughout it all she's kept her head held high - well, her hair held high, anyway, thanks to a rampant addiction to hairspray.

She first appeared in 1979 at Gail's engagement party (her first one), showing herself to be something of a good-time girl.  You can imagine how well this went down with Ivy Tilsley, a woman who thought Queen Victoria was a bit of a tart, and she added Audrey to the already lengthy list of reasons why Gail was wrong for Her Brian.

Audrey then departed the series, because Sue Nicholls had to go and appear in another piece of quality British television: Rentaghost.  For viewers of a certain age Audrey will always be Miss Popov, the sneezing Dutch woman whose powers of teleportation lead to all sorts of hilarious consequences, often involving a pantomime horse.

Rentaghost was finally axed when BBC research discovered that kids found Timothy Claypole disturbing, not funny, and so Sue was free to return to the cobbles.  She almost immediately focussed her attentions on ensnaring Alf Roberts, because if there's one thing every woman needs, it's a wealthy grocer with a heart condition.  Alf fell for her joie de vivre and sparkling wit, while all the time Audrey was wondering how much she could get for his mayoral chains at Cash4Gold.

As time went on, Audrey fell more and more in love with Alfie, and when he finally popped off to the Cash and Carry in the sky she was bereft.  By this time she'd acquired a hairdressing salon of her own, where she could spend her days leafing through the appointment book with a cup of coffee in her hand.  Her best friend by now was Alma, another smoky eyed Sixties survivor with a penchant for big hair.  The two of them could regularly be found knocking back the G&Ts while they complained about their stupidly rich husbands and their nice homes.

Because, of course, Audrey was a cut above the rest of the Street's residents, and she lived out in Oakhill, Weatherfield's posher than posh suburb.  Her past as a teenage scrubber has been forgotten; now she has a semi-detached house with a garden, and don't you forget it.  It does mean that when she has a public humiliation (which is all too regularly) the barflies in the Rovers tend to rub their hands together with glee, but that's the price you pay for having a conservatory and conifers.

Through all of this Audrey watched as Gail wandered through a procession of disastrous relationships and brought up three of the most irritating children in Christendom.  It did mean that the two women - who had so little in common during Gail's childhood, when she was the Saffron Monsoon to Audrey's Edina - could now jointly commiserate about how all men are bastards, and their relationship improved.  On top of which, her long lost son Stephen suddenly crawled out the woodwork, and they had a tearful reunion.  Stephen continues to reappear in the soap whenever a character needs to be sent abroad; he is the CEO of a mysterious conglomerate which seems to span the globe.  Rumours that he is in fact a criminal super villain are, as yet, unproven.

With Alfie safely stowed away underground, Audrey entered the new millennium with her eye out for a new husband.  It's become a rite of passage for any moderately successful middle aged man to have a pop at Audrey; she's a sort of welcoming committee for the male menopausal.  Fred Elliott, butcher extraordinaire, fell most heavily under her spell, but she refused to marry him because she could never be happy with a man who smelt of offal.  Despite this, he continued to hold a torch, slipping her an extra couple of kidneys whenever Ashley's back was turned, and Audrey tacitly encouraged the devotion.

During all this Gail was married to a serial killer called Richard Hillman; Audrey was the only one who saw through his smooth lines and realised he was a wrong 'un.  Richard embarked on an elaborate plot to convince everyone that Audrey was senile, though why he didn't just crack her on the back of the head with a length of piping like all his other victims is beyond me.  Perhaps he realised it would take a SCUD missile to get through all those layers of hair.  Eventually Audrey was proved right and Richard was revealed to be a sociopath.  You'd think this experience would have stayed with her, but when Maria made similar accusations about Tony Gordon, Audrey told her to stop being a silly girl and keep quiet.  Mind you, it was Maria.

Heartache intervened when her best friend, Alma, succumbed to cancer; she was with her right to the end, and promised to rename the salon Alma's in her memory.  This was then quietly shelved when she realised that "Alma" is an even less glamorous name than "Audrey".  The salon's continued liquidity is in the meantime a mystery to everyone else; it somehow supports three stylists even though the only business they ever get is Emily coming in to have a trim.  Perhaps Audrey is managing to keep it afloat single handedly with her Elnett purchases.

Fred had rebuilt his love life, and was just about to marry Bev Unwin when Audrey dropped the bombshell; she wished it was her at the end of the aisle instead.  Fred was confused and dismayed, and promptly fell down dead in her hallway, solving the problem for everyone.  She moved on instead to Bill Webster, having a mucky affair with him while his wife was in Germany; he ended up moving in, but there's only so many ways you can have a conversation about plywood before you get bored, and she dumped him on a weekend in France.

For a while, Audrey was alone, her only job in the soap to roll her eyes in dismay whenever David smashed something up.  Her hopes of rekindling an old romance were dashed when Ted Paige turned up and revealed that after their night of passion, he decided to be gay: an understandable reaction when you consider that his one heterosexual experience resulted in Gail.  She eventually decided she'd had enough of this and hired Nigel Havers to be her boyfriend, a course of action why many a middle-aged lady has dreamt about over her Lean Cuisine.  Nigel tried to be good, but he just wasn't a one-woman man, and after a snog with Dierdre Barlow he fled to Greece with Audrey's savings.  No wonder she started to consider Mark to be a catch.  Ok, he spent his weekends miming to Judy Live at Carnegie Hall in a floor-length ball gown, but at least he had his own bank account.

So now Audrey is alone once again, though I doubt it will be for long.  Give it a couple of weeks and she'll be all over Dennis Tanner like a particularly rampant case of Japanese Knotweed.  It's a choice between him and Norris, and let's face it, she's not that desperate.  At least, not yet.

16 comments:

Frosty The Snowman said...

I love Audreh, as I said in a previous post, Sue Nichols' acting was first class yesterday. She puts her blinking whispering uber annoying "daughter" to shame. I just wish Aud would find a decent bloke and have a bit of happyness. A happy ending seems to be a novelty on the Street these sorry days.

Anonymous said...

Did she not have a fling with Archie Shuttleworth as well?

Anonymous said...

did she not have a fling with Archie Butterworth?

Nemo said...

Wonderful article! Audrey is, in my view, something of a Street legend. She's weathered the storm and lived to tell the tale. Sue Nicholls is sorely underrated.

Ta again! :)

Humpty Dumpty said...

Great blog!

I remember Sue Nicholls from The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (his secretary) and she's a good comic actress.

Audrey's not used enough though I'm beginning to tire of her 'Hmmm?' which is used more than enough. She depicts the fate of the older woman who needs male company. She no longer has women friends on the Street - or anywhere else, at the moment. As an escape from the endless Platt sagas, she could investigate her family history with help from Ken. Potentially, a lot of drama and light relief there.

Tvor said...

Absolutely wonderful! Best thing i've read in weeks!

Anonymous said...

The "climax" to the Marcia/Marc storyline was contrived and dull. Audrey's sacking of Kylie was ridiculous and out of character. And since when has Audrey cared what anyone thought?

This is the Audrey whose fling with a gay man resulted in Gail and who married Alf for his money, as the blog says. Why would she care so much about the opinions of people like Sally, whose own closet is not exactly skeleton free?
Sue Nicholls deserves much better than this rubbish.

Anonymous said...

didn't she lead on Jim mcdonald when he first arrived?

Anonymous said...

I don't think Audrey got the Salon when Alma was alive, she got it from Alma? Maybe I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Merseytart, you have skillz - another excellent post!!

Anonymous said...

The lady can deliver a line like no one else..and the facial expressions!! She doesn't even have to utter a word and you know exactly what she's thinking.
Corrie wouldn't be the same without her!!

dhvinyl said...

Brilliant piece - says it all from a true fan's perspective

Flaming Nora said...

Brilliant!

ChiaGwen said...

A gem of a blog! Hope to see Audrey with Dennis though I can't see Sylvia giving up easily. Agree that Sue Nichols just has to give that one 'look' and you know what she is thinking....great actress.

Anonymous said...

Our Audrey's one of my favorite characters.. and your column made my snort my yogourt all over the keyboard several times ;)
Rebecca in TO

maggie muggins said...

Well written and hysterically funny tribute to Audrah, Merseytart! I love her!

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