You know that an institution – of any sort – has embedded itself in the nation’s psyche when it can be sent-up with affection rather than denigrating mockery. The television series Coronation Street is one such institution and Jonathan Harvey’s comedy Corrie! whisks us through 50 years of characters and incidents with an approach which suggests that you don’t have to watch the series to be able to catch the allusions and jokes.
The play was previously showcased at the Lowry Centre but is now touring the country through to July, and possibly beyond the summer. There’s a narrator who sets the scene in between the sketches; this actor changes depending on the individual venue. Gaynor Faye takes the part for the tour’s première performances, roaming the multi-level set designed by Liz Ascroft to take us from the monochrome Sixties through to the full-colour special effects and cliff-hangers of the Noughties.
Six players share out 53 parts between them, switching clothes, wigs and even – as far as Simon Chadwick, Daniel Crowder and Peter Temple are concerned – gender at speed. The dear and not-so-dear departed take time out while waiting for St Peter (our narrator) to open the pearly gates for them to comment on the action below. This is fast and furious with the bar of the Rovers Return pub, various domestic interiors and outside spaces being indicated by furniture moved on and off stage by the cast.
Men who live on Coronation Street tend, when not being out and out villains, to be somewhat wimpish. It is the female of the species who dominates, from archetypical battleaxes to neighbourhood femmes fatales. There are also mousy housewives and let-down fiancées, all brought to life by Leanne Best, Jo Mousley and Lucy Thackeray. Coronation Street is a fictitious road and we’re probably glad that we don’t have any of its inhabitants as our own neighbours. But this play demonstrates that it’s not just a lively place. It’s a living one as well.