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Saturday 20 August 2016

Whatever happened to the Coronation Street battle-axe?

What the world needs now is a feisty old bag who says what she means and means what she says. Forget Angela, Hillary and ... err, Theresa. Let's think less global and more cobble. Corrie is currently turning a corner and a welcome change of direction it is too. There are new friendships and alliances, a little less of the drudgery and a bit more fun. However, there is a harridan-shaped hole in Weatherfield.

Every drama needs a mouthy moral majority, laying down the law and not being afraid to do so. In Corrie though, these ladies have been few and far between. They are a rare and wonderful breed, eclipsing the status of backstreet bitch, gossipmonger or fishwife. In reality, the show has only offered up two legends of this ilk and what a pair they were - Ena Sharples and Blanche Hunt.

Ena's brand of wrath was carefully crafted during two world wars and a recession. Religion and morals guided her over the years and helped armour-plate her against whatever life could throw at her. No smart one-liners from Ena. Just a rapier-like delivery of whatever she was dishing out that day. Every battle-axe has their weak points though and for Ena there was a catalogue of handbag fights, name-calling and very un-Christian like behaviour. Few took her on. Elsie Tanner was her regular nemesis for twenty years but she also went to war with Annie Walker and Hilda Ogden amongst others.

Blanche emerged from a different background. She was widowed at a young age and single-handedly raised a wilful daughter. Blanche turned her hand to whatever brought the money in be it as a barmaid, a corset-fitter or a shopkeeper. Early Blanche was a bit of a good-time girl, friendly ear to chew and popular. Twenty years later she had morphed into the un-PC, tough-as-old-boots biddy with a penchant for other people's funerals and caustic one-liners. Blanche also had a vulnerable side and that kept her from becoming one-dimensional, something that obviously wasn't passed down the line to Tracy luv.

There were other pretenders to the throne. Granny Hopkins, presiding over the Corner Shop in the mid 1970s, proved to be little more than nasty. Phyllis Pearce was touted as the 'new Ena' when she first appeared in 1982 but settled for being a gruff old dear with an eye for the fellas. Well, one fella. Maud Grimes shone brightly for a while, another hard woman but importantly, not embittered. Roy's mother Sylvia was wonderful but sadly wasn't around long enough to make a lasting impression.

There were encouraging signs that Deirdre was in the process of picking up the baton from her mother. Not to be. Looking around the current crop of likely characters . . . well, there are no likely characters. Rita lost all of her spit-and-vinegar after Len died and she re-invented herself as Mother Earth in a toffee shop. Gail's too busy nursing Nick's Oedipus Complex, Liz is too flighty and Eileen's a bore. Yasmeen might have a few battle-axe tendencies, likewise Sally, but overall they are decent women.

There were high hopes that Agnes Tinker, Beth's grandma, might have been a stayer. She bobbed around for the wedding episodes, returning later to visit Sinead in hospital but that was that. Likewise, the appearance of actress Beatrice Kelley in 2014, as Michael Rodwell's aunt provided a tiny spike of anticipation but the character was temporary and quite mild-mannered. Maybe ITV should have snapped up Lynda Baron, glorious as Violet Carson in The Road to Coronation Street but alas, she's now doing something in Walford.

Does Corrie need a fearsome older woman patrolling its cobbles? I think it does.

Clinkers to Riddle, on twitter @bridglondon

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Humpty Dumpty said...

The age of the matriarchal battle-axe has sadly gone. Alan Bennett has said as much and he should know. What we need in Corrie, though, is someone holding the moral compass and they could be male or female. S/he has oversight of the whole community but most residents are only concerned with their immediate families. Then along comes Freddie who is mates with everyone and only marginally involved with the Plstt dynasty. He looks like he could fearlessly hand out a few home truths as required. Freddie gets my vote.

Tvor said...

I think Roy is probably the best moral compass we have. Freddie would be good as well, I agree and Audrey, too

Anonymous said...

With her domineering and occasional emotional abusive attitude towards Steve[no wonder he gurns all the time],I think Michelle could be a battle-axe in the making.
I am certainly not looking forward to Michelle's 'woe is me' and holier than thou attitude when she finds out Leeanne is also pregnant with Steve's baby coniviently forgetting her own indiscretion with Will and how Steve thought their marriage was over when he thought she left him for her singing gig on a cruise.

Anonymous said...

I always thought Gail would fit the mould, but they turned her into the village idiot instead.

70sStreetFan said...

Blanche,while an entertaining character who was well played by Maggie Jones,was too one dimensional during her second incarnation in the series. But,for me,Sylvia proves that the age of the battle axe is not dead as stated by another poster. She was a formidable character a la Ena,had wit like Blanche- but also,in the hands of a very good actress,did at times display a more vulnerable side. I don't see any real candidates in the current cast. Perhaps Roy's Auntie Jean or Mary's mum could fill the void- although the latter would take some careful casting!

Anonymous said...

Too bad we can't have Sylvia back.

Anonymous said...

How about a screeching harрy instead - Anna would get my vote!

Ancient corrier said...

My thoughts too 8.58. Anna is definitely a potential battle axe.
By the way, where IS Anna?

Anonymous said...

Difficult to show horn one in but maybe the new pairing of Sean and Norris could employ a cleaner - that might provide a threesome of gossip and bile.

Anonymous said...

Let's not be sexist! Norris is the reigning battle-axe.

C in Canada said...

I will second the 'wish we could have Sylvia back' as she was the best contender I've seen since Blanche.


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