Monday, 20 November 2017

Review: Queer Media Festival's Corrie Spectacular

Guest blog post by Stephen M Hornby You can follow Stephen on Twitter @StephenMHornby and on Instagram @stephenmhornby.

On Saturday night, the Queer Media Festival staged a Corrie Spectacular: Hilda versus Deidre at HOME in Manchester.  Our guest blogger, Stephen M Hornby from Attitude, offers up five things that he loved:

Stephen Hornby with the drag queens as Deirdre and Hilda
1.  Seeing Corrie on the big screen
Four classic episodes in a sold out Cinema 1 on a Saturday night is a real treat.  There’s Hilda’s rollers the size of a Fiat 500 and Deirdre’s bins larger than Alf Robert’s shop window.  But more importantly, there’s the joy of seeing it with hundreds of other fans.  The auditorium is full of whispered, “Is she the one that..?” half-memories.  Then you’re mouthing “Woman, Stanley, woman” at the same time as 400 hundred other people and bursting out laughing as you all realise what you’ve just done.

Dawn Kilner Photography 
Dawn Kilner Photography
2.  Hilda’s episodes
In the blue corner, we had the sublimely funny Hilda’s second honeymoon episode from 1977, full of the witty class-based humour the show so glaringly lacks at the moment.  And then from 1981, Hilda’s missing laundry story, which features the surreal sight of Hilda, Stan and Eddie Yates combing through a landfill.  Jean Alexander shines as Hilda whether in full battleaxe mode, or gently urging Stan to be more “sensitised” as she reflects wistfully on decades of marriage. What a brilliant way to mark the thirtieth anniversary of her departure from the Street.

Dawn Kilner Photography
Dawn Kilner Photography

3.  Deirdre’s episodes
In the red corner, we have the wide-eyed Weatherfield moaner whose choices of hairstyle and glasses were national watercooler moments.  In Deidre’s 1989 Christmas episode, she’s sporting a bubble perm and a blend of pink and mauve eyeshadow that luxuriously matches the opaque plastic rims of her glasses.  She’s just unmasked Ken Barlow’s affair with Wendy and she’s letting him have it.  But her most famous episode is from 1998 when Deirdre gets sent down and finds out her cell mate is Margi Clarke.   Anne Kirkbride was genius at making Deirdre both angry and sad in the same moment, and nowhere more so than here as her face crumples saying, “There’s been a mistake” as lights out is called on her first night in custody.

Dawn Kilner Photography

Dawn Kilner Photography
4.  The hidden gay moments.
It’s widely stated that Todd Grimshaw was the first gay character in Coronation Street.  But, I reckon the waiter from Hilda’s 1977 episode might have the prior claim.  Serving Stan and Hilda champagne he remarks in a wonderfully camp deadpan that it’s, “colder than a dead foot”.  When Stan offers him a glass he declines, purring, “I’d be skipping about like a baby fawn if I did” and swishes off into the night. 

Dawn Kilner Photography 
5.  The drag queens. 
There were three!  The event was compared by The Night Bus.  Anna Phylactic served us Hilda realness and Miss Blair threw some terrifying shade as Deirdre.   They each did inspired live routines in between screenings, lip-synching to dialogue in character and then offering a song.  Anna brilliantly rifted off a reference to Kate Bush in one episode to transform into a peach nighty vision warbling about a washing machine from Bush’s album Aerial.  Miss Blair brought the house down with her version of I Will Survive, pushing her way through a whole line of seated audience with audacious dance moves.  This was Deirdre and Hilda as we’d never seen them before, but the essence of the characters was captured completely, not just in the make-up but in the wonderful performances.

Dawn Kilner Photography 
If this was a battle between Hilda and Deirdre, I’d call it a draw.  All the way through, I imagined Jean and Anne sat at the back somewhere in the dark, just out of sight, laughing their heads off, chuffed that the characters they created are still enjoyed so warmly.  Tony Warren would be perched next to them with the biggest laugh of all, delighting in how the queer sensibility that the show was built on is now enjoyed so openly.

Guest blog post by Stephen M Hornby You can follow Stephen on Twitter @StephenMHornby and on Instagram @stephenmhornby.

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