Friday, 19 May 2017
Is Corrie failing to represent more mature women?
Today's news that Claire King is to leave her role as Erica Holroyd this August is a sad turn of events. Claire joined Coronation Street in 2014 and she herself has said, a six week job has turned into three years, which isn't that bad at all. However what worries me is Coronation Street has shamefully underused Claire over the past two years. A programme which once prided itself at putting mature, strong females at the forefront of the action is now it seems, letting the side down.
Claire King is a super actress with a great track record in television drama. She has a history of playing strong, multi-faceted women which made her a perfect addition to the Coronation Street cast. Erica was introduced as a friend of Liz McDonald however after an interesting few months involving Liz and Nick Tilsley, Erica drifted into the background. After the sad demise of Deirdre, Liz really needed a close female friend to have fun with and share life's ups and downs. In Erica, she had found it. However scenes between Liz and Erica were in painfully short supply. Erica also forged an unexpected but rewarding friendship with Mary but that relationship too disappeared without a trace.
I think it was a bad move to put Erica in the Corner Shop. It just didn't suit her talents. The Corner Shop used to be the hub of the Street but is now rarely seen so it was not a good place to put a vibrant character like Erica. She would have been much better behind the bar of the Rovers with Liz. The fun in her character faded a little when she was put with Dev too. I don't think it was a good match but it's quite difficult to tell as we've hardly seen them interact since they got together.
I think what's happened to Claire's character is part of a much wider problem in Coronation Street and it's not a recent phenomenon. Yes, I agree the show is in much better shape under Kate Oates and I'm glad the Blackburn era is over. However the programme is focussing very closely on a few blockbuster storylines and not leaving enough room for the smaller, incidental plot lines which transform the show into a believable community. Too many actors are not getting a look in and those that do appear fairly relentlessly. It's also a job for the much younger actor these days and while I understand a certain amount of stamina must be required to cope with the increasingly hectic filming schedules, in ignoring the stories of older characters, Coronation Street is doing its audience and real issues in the wider world a disservice.
Coronation Street was founded back in 1960 with women at its core. They were the strong ones and they were all of a certain age. I still think women are at the centre of much of the action, but a lot of them are interchangeable with characters you'd find in Hollyoaks or EastEnders. Mature female characters are fairly poorly represented these days and I get the feeling that those that remain are taken for granted. Coronation Street seems to struggle to write for older women when once, they were the driving force of the show and a major reason why it became and continues to be such a success. Of those that remain, Gail, Audrey and Liz are the most prominent however although they appear quite regularly they always form the background to the stories driven by younger characters. Rita rarely appears these days and I know Barbara Knox is getting older but she deserves better. Yasmeen is another strong character who is woefully underused. We also have Melanie Hill's Cathy Matthews. Melanie is a great actor but her character is too beige and underdeveloped and the decision to put her with Roy early on in her Corrie career was not a good one.
All this is very disappointing. As people live longer and enjoy life into late middle age and beyond, they need more representation on our screens, not less. Besides this, Corrie are missing a trick. It's more mature viewers that watch the show as broadcast these days. Younger people don't watch television in the traditional way these days, if they watch it at all. Corrie are preaching to the wrong crowd. More mature women with years of interesting life experience and great stories to tell really need to be better represented in Coronation Street. At the moment the programme is failing to live up to the wonderful legacy left to us by the likes of Pat Phoenix, Doris Speed, Violet Carson, Betty Driver, Amanda Barrie, Liz Dawn, Jean Alexander and Anne Kirkbride.
I wish Claire King well when she leaves Coronation Street later in the summer. I'm quite sure she won't be short of offers and I hope she moves on to roles that make much better use of her considerable talents.
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