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Jonathan Harvey On...Corrie!

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Jonathan Harvey currently writes for Coronation Street. He also wrote Gimme, Gimme, Gimme and the recent comedy hit Beautiful People. He enjoyed huge success on stage recently with Canary, as well as the stage and film version of Beautiful Thing. He has collaborated with the Pet Shop Boys on the West End musical Closer To Heaven. Jonathan's latest stage production is Corrie! which receives its World Premiere at the Lowry later this month. The show condenses classic moments from the last fifty years of TV episodes into two hours, including the viaduct collapse, the coach crash, the tram running over Alan, Frank capturing Valerie, Tracy killing Charlie, Todd kissing Nick and Gail marrying Brian, Martin, Richard and Joe. Classic Characters such as Ena Sharples, Hilda Ogden, Percy Sugden and Alf Roberts will be recovered from the vaults alongside more recent Street residents such as Richard Hillman and Karen McDonald and a few who have bridged the years on the programme such as Ken and Deirdre Barlow and Jack Duckworth.

What made you want to start writing? 

I gave up Youth Theatre when I got a face full of acne at 14, but knew I was still interested in theatre.When my local theatre the Liverpool Playhouse ran a Young Writers Competition I thought I’d have a go. I feel lucky to have grown up in a culturally rich Liverpool in the 1980s. 

Which writers either inspired you or made you sit up and listen?
Willy Russell, Mike Leigh, Victoria Wood, Alan Bennet.

You have written hit television shows, made Coronation Street more relevant and received great reviews for Beautiful Thing on stage. But is there anything in your career you regret or wish would have panned out differently?
I wish Britannia High had been more like Glee, I think us writers could have made it so, but the producers were keen to appeal to verrrrry young people so it wasn’t to be.

Which plays/musicals have you seen recently that you really enjoyed and why?
I loved Legally Blonde because the score is excellent and the production fantastic. Sheridan Smith is a star. And I adored War Horse for its epic sweep, it was like watching a movie.

How did the stage version of Corrie! come about?
Phil McIntyre spoke to Kieran Roberts, the exec on Corrie, and discussed doing something to celebrate 50 years of the show. They decided a ’50 years in one night play’ would be the way to go and asked the writers on the show if they were interested. I put my hand up.

What's in it for both fans and newcomers?
Fans can revisit all their old favourite moments. Newcomers can revel in the fabulosity of one of the best shows on the box!

You have managed to bring great humour and pathos to Coronation St, retaining the light hearted banter we expect. Who are your favourite characters to write for and why?
I don’t really have a favourite character, to be honest. The variety of writing for so many different characters is appealing.

Beautiful Thing and Closer To Heaven were received very differently by audiences and crtics. How do you keep this out of your mind when writing a piece like Canary?
If you worry about critics when you write a play then you may as well forget it. My biggest fear about the critics with Canary was just that they wouldn’t laugh at me for trying to dig deep and be a bit serious. Fortunately they were lovely to me.

You have bought gay relationships into a soap which is part of the furniture in peoples' households. Do you ever get feedback from the audience? 
I get feedback from friends and family, but not necessarily about the gay stories. I am one of a team of 18 writers and cannot take the credit for the gay sensibility. I am not the only gay in the Corrie village.

Liverpool audiences seemed to enjoy Canary. Were you happy with the way it turned out? 
Very. The production exceeded my expectations, it was a joyous experience.

Corrie! premieres at the Lowry in Salford, appropriately, but are there any plans to take it to the West End? 
I think the producers would like to tour it next year, so who knows?

You have said that Coronation St was the best thing that could have happened. Does writing for such a well loved programme mean that you are approached to write more theatre now?
Theatre people don’t come knocking on my door so much these days. I have to go knocking on theirs. But I am very lucky. They usually answer.

Do you take more risks because of this security?
I am not sure. I have only written one new play in 8 years, so possibly not as many risks as I should!

Finally, what are your plans following the Lowry dates?
I am in discussions about adapting Canary for the television so I would like to see that come to fruition – and all my other TV projects. I have two other plays I am burning to write, so I would like develop those as well.

Jonathan Harvey was speaking to Glenn Meads

Corrie! runs at the Lowry from 12 - 28 August. For more details, please visit the Lowry website.


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