The two vintage episodes, written by HV Kershaw and John Stevenson, centre around the delivery of Annie Walker’s new monogrammed rug to the Rovers Return. The landlady is so pleased with the purchase that she decides to hold a sherry party in honour of it, unaware that the carpet is not as unique as she believes. Around this central plot you have the everyday goings on of the street. Instead of high drama there are really strong characters and you don’t need to be a Corrie fan to care about them.
All the actors, bought together by casting director June West, are excellent, but in these episodes it is definitely the women who stand out. Joan Kempson as Hilda Ogden gets a lot of laughs with her stream of malapropisms (mammogrammed rug anyone?) and Denice Hope does a fine comic turn as ‘senior’ barmaid Betty Turpin, raising a laugh with just her facial expressions. Kimberly Hart Simpson is every inch the brassy, catty, blond barmaid as she bristles at Annie Walker’s (Christine Barton-Brown) snobbish insults as the iconic Bet Lynch.
The performance takes place in the cosy Lass O’Gowrie pub. The proximity of the actors - it is not a very big venue so they are often touching distance – gives the feeling of being a part of the action in a way watching on stage could never do.
At times it feels like you’ve actually been transported into a 1977 television set. As the whole space is used the audience need to do be alert and at one point an audience member had to duck out of the way as a football was about to be bounced against the wall that her head was resting. The actors are well directed to cope with this and whistling, loud heels and singing are all used to clear a pathway as they go from one side of the space to the other.
Coronation Street fans will revel in this opportunity to see these archive episodes lovingly recreated, but for those who don’t watch the soap this is a chance to see a well-written and very funny script being given a second life. The recent debacle that was Street of Dreams may be best forgotten but Coronation Street Live will live on, as it's unmissable.
- Joanna Ing