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Friday 28 July 2017

The Making of Mary


Mary Taylor has become one of my favourite current Coronation Street characters. To coin a phrase, there's just something about her. Mary has been brilliantly portrayed by Patti Clare for nearly a decade now, but for me it is only the past year that we've seen her come into her own. I have never ever doubted Patti's skills as an actress but for too long I felt that while the writers obviously enjoyed penning Mary's lines, the direction and purpose of the character was muddled to say the least. 

To begin with Mary was a figure of fun, coming out with random and mostly impossible to imagine monologues which provided light to the ever increasing shade in the world we called Weatherfield. Mary has been paired up with Norris pretty much since the get go and they have fine chemistry as the local odd couple. However I quickly became perplexed when she seemed to spend all her time either in her motor-home or with a group of, albeit sprightly, old age pensioners. Mary is, despite her quirks, around the age of Steve and Michelle and yet hangs out with Rita and Emily. The motor-home alone was problematic. It stuck out a mile on the street and was a point of conversation for a while but soon I couldn't help but wonder why she didn't have somewhere proper to live.


Also Mary didn't really have a specific purpose on the street, lacking a regular job, which as we know is crucial for interaction with a wide range of characters on the cobbles. She has always come across as an educated person yet she seemed to have little in the way of experience behind her (experience we did hear of seemed preposterous to say the least!). Thankfully the motor-home has been consigned to the DVD rack of history and now Mary spends time with characters other than Norris and Rita. There was even a time when I would happily have seen the back of Mary. A few years back she went a tad bunny boiler on us, keeping Norris prisoner in a remote cottage. That storyline strained the humour of the situation too far and thankfully seems to have been forgotten.

I think the turning point for Mary came when she formed an attachment with Dev Alahan and his children. To begin with I questioned her suitability to act as nanny to the twins but for the first time, these scenes began to show a depth to the character we had not really seen before. There was still an element of zany humour but with added pathos and a sense of humanity, Mary started to soar in my affections. The weird rivalry with Julie Carp aside (I still miss Julie and her fantastic frocks by the way), I'm pleased Mary is still happily ensconced with the Alahans. No doubt they will need her more than ever once Erica departs.


I have also loved seeing Mary establish herself in the florists with Tracy. Tracy Barlow has long been in need of proper friends on the street, a bit difficult when you're a loud mouthed She-Devil with the tongue of Blanche and the kidney of Samir. However Tracy and Mary,another classic odd couple pairing, seem to have gelled and although Tracy is frequently frustrated by Ms Taylor, an affectionate bond has formed which is lovely to see. Even established characters need new dimensions to keep them fresh and interesting. 

For me though, the biggest change for Mary Taylor has been actually giving her serious meaty stories for Patti Clare to get her teeth into. We first saw evidence of this when the truth behind Mary's infectious smile came out towards the end of last year. When I first heard the idea of Mary having a secret son, I was concerned it would not be believable. Yet the writing, coupled with strong, affecting performances from Patti and Malcolm Hebden, made it a high point of my recent Corrie watching. My only regret was that the story seemed to be pushed into progressing at too great a rate. After it all came out, Mary's son was found and had presented himself in Weatherfield with alarming speed and all was well. Thankfully Mary's son Jude will be more of a fixture in Coronation Street soon and I can't wait to see which direction it heads in next. Building a family around Mary is a really good sign for the future of her character.


Also, Mary's involvement in the latter stages of Bethany's grooming storyline have been extremely welcome and beautifully played. Given her own experiences as a teenager, it would only be fitting for Mary to offer Bethany advice and guidance in her hour of need. Mary's vulnerability, coupled with solidarity and strength in the face of the horrendous Nathan stretched both the character of Mary and Patti Clare, the actress. Don't get me wrong, I hope she continues to provide some lighthearted moments amidst the Corrie gloom, but meatier stories really suit Mary Taylor too. 

So what are my wishes for the future of Mary? Aside from seeing her bond with Jude and his family,  I really really think it is about time we were properly introduced to her mother! For nearly a decade this apparently monstrous gargoyle of a woman has been mentioned, with random descriptions tossed in to every day conversation, provoking raised eyebrows from not only Rita and Norris but also from the viewers. Mary's mum is a superb role just begging to be cast. There are plenty of character actresses out there who I'm sure could do her justice.

Long may Mary entertain us, make us laugh and cry. And long may Patti Clare grace the cobbles with her unique portrayal of Mary Taylor. 

By Graeme Naylor

You can find me on Twitter @GraemeN82

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Scott Willison said...

I agree with almost all of this - she's retained her weird, curious ways, but has become rounded and whole, a bit like Roy. I love her, and she's often the character that makes me laugh loudest during the show. I wouldn't want to meet her mother though. She's reached such monstrous, bizarre proportions -
a bit like Maris on Frasier - that any real-life appearance would disappoint!

C in Canada said...

Great post!
I love Mary's 'eccentricness' - and I love how she's been there for Bethany with her own personal experience of the situation.

Tvor said...

They have evolved Mary into a top character, one that will go down in corrie history as an icon, I think. I agree that they have finally shown us a Mary with so many different sides, and depths. I don't think I'd want to meet her mother, either, I have to say, though I picture her as being a combination of Drew's mother, the horrible Geraldine with the sharp edged tongue of Blanche or Sylvia. I think it's much better she be unseen.

Jay said...

Would love to see Mary have a romance with someone her own age.

Rapunzel said...

Terrific post Graeme. I too love how Mary has developed from a quirky peripheral role into an increasingly core character. Hats off too to Kate Oates who must have perceived something special and allowed Mary to blossom.

Carry On Blogging! said...

Thank you!

Carry On Blogging! said...


Flo said...

Agree 100% with everything you have said. I find myself chuckling at her just about every time she is on screen. And also agree with them rushing the story about her son, everything else takes months and months, but that all happened wham bam! I'm looking forward to seeing how her story continues. Long live Mary!


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