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Sunday 5 July 2015

Death comes to Weatherfield

We've known this particular storyline was coming for half a year and yet when it finally does present itself on Wednesday 8 July, saying goodbye to Deirdre Hunt Langton Barlow Rachid Barlow will still be difficult.

For many of us, Deirdre will have been a presence for our entire Corrie-viewing lives and so, wrapped up in our lives, so was hers.

In Corrie terms, Deirdre's passing will be up there with the big ones - Stan, Len, Betty, the Duckworths. We remember some of the deaths more vividly because they occurred in an era when final farewells were used much more sparingly. It's a difficult line to tread for the powers that be. Deirdre's demise comes due to the still hard to believe death of Anne Kirkbride. Thus the production team have to give the fictional character a decent send off while taking into consideration the feelings of the actor's family and friends. This is something that Corrie seems to have done particularly well over the years, affording the characters a quiet, non-violent death away from the Street. The passing of Jack Walker in 1970, following the death of actor Arthur Leslie, was the first of many.

Thankfully though, the death of an actor while still on the programme is mercifully rare. Instead we see characters being dispatched at the end of their useful Street life with grim frequency. It's hard to feel too emotional about the recent demise of Kal or Maddie. The farewells for Sunita Alahan and Tina McIntyre were not particularly fond. In both cases, this was the end of the line for residents who had once been liked but whose personalities had been trashed towards the end of their tenure. They had to go and to be honest, were we all that bothered?

How different it was back in the day. Soap deaths were rare in the seventies and my own first experience of this came courtesy of Ernie Bishop back in 1978. I was at junior school and can still recall the total shock that was felt the day after Ernie had been gunned down. For many of us, it was our first dealings with death at any level. Here was a genial TV character who had been on screen for my entire life. Now he'd gone. Someone who I had never met and indeed, who did not really exist but all the same, this was a sharp reminder that life isn't always nice.

Other than Hilda's reaction to Stan's death (still heartbreaking over thirty years later), one of the most powerful depictions of bereavement came in 1983. The build-up to the end of Len Fairclough had taken several months, all off-screen following the firing of actor Peter Adamson. When the time came, we had Rita, in a cabaret gown, singing at Stan & Hilda's Ruby Wedding party. The came the arrival of the police, the ushering away of a bemused Rita into the Rovers back room and a flustered Betty delivering the grim news that Len was dead. However, it was the next episode that provided the true gut-wrenching moments thanks to the performance of a lifetime from Barbara Knox. There was Rita, still in the cabaret gown, face streaked with make-up, her hair a mess. Awash with tea and sympathy, Rita tried to make sense of the horrible reality. She also had to deal with her friends and neighbours, including a particularly selfish outburst from Elsie Tanner. The whole episode was raw and realistic.

Death in a soap should always act as a catalyst, making those left behind question their own lives and values. In Rita's case, Len's death made her stronger and perhaps a little more harsh. For Jack Duckworth, it was the realisation that for all of their squabbling, he and Vera had been a devoted couple. For Betty's nearest and dearest, it was the knowledge that she had secretly been the owner of the Rovers for decades and that she was a kleptomaniac who hoarded pint pots in her back yard. Maybe some storylines are best forgotten.

For the Barlows, it would appear that the next few weeks will be a time for airing some harsh home truths. Maybe Deirdre's legacy will be a new, improved Tracy. We can but hope. In the meantime we prepare to bid farewell to a fictional character but one who has accompanied many of us from childhood years to middle age. Let's not diminish the importance of Deirdre Barlow, a woman whose throaty chuckle and big pair of specs kept us enthralled for many, many years.

See also the following as we get ready to say goodbye to Deirdre Barlow:

Interview with Kate Ford (Tracy Barlow) on saying goodbye to her on-screen mum

Interview with William Roache (Ken Barlow) on saying goodbye to his on-screen wife

Interview with Corrie scriptwriter Damon Rochefort on writing out a legend from the show

Deirdre to die on her 60th birthday, July 8 2015.

Peter Barlow and Bev Unwin are returning.

Coronation Street build their own graveyard to film Deirdre's funeral

Tracy's ex-husband Robert Preston returns.

The funeral has been written by scriptwriter Damon Rochefort
Deirdre's death has been explained here.

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Glenda Young said...

What a beautiful post, David.

Emma Hynes said...

Hear hear! Wonderful.

Tvor said...

Lovely, David and it's true, Corrie does do these sorts of send off very well (mostly) and though I'm not looking forward to the next few weeks in one way, in another way, I am. We all need to say goodbye to Deirdre.

Humpty Dumpty said...

Well said, David. I do hope Deirdre isn't forgotten too quickly after these promised wonderful episodes. The writers could turn Amy into a mini Deirdre/Blanche, quoting them at appropriate moments, making Tracy's life hell.

Clinkers (David) said...

Thanks everyone. Credit where credit's due to the Corrie team - with the exception of the Betty debacle, they have always come up trumps and even Betty's funeral episode was lump-in-thet-hroat stuff.

vintgal003 said...

AND....didn't we all have large tissue boxes beside us, when our DEAR Hayley ended her life....that was incredibly husband and I just sat there in silence as we gulped down the tears.......

Anonymous said...

Not looking forward to these episodes. :( (I do, however, predict that the hearse will have a floral arrangement spelling out MUM or DEIRDRE -- are these mandated by British law? have never seen a Corrie funeral without the letter-shaped arrangements)

Anonymous said...

I also hope Deirdre isn't forgotten too quickly either as sadly the Duckworths are all but forgotten by their 'son'Tyrone.
I think though,it will be difficult seeing the Nazirs,Leeanne and the Websters offer their condolences to Ken and particurely Tracy whose botched murder attempt on Carla caused the fire and their deaths.


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