By Laura Denby.
Coronation Street’s latest dramatic storyline resulted in a betrayal which rocked Tyrone Dobbs (Alan Halsall) and Fiz Stape’s (Jennie McAlpine) relationship. Tyrone recently grew closer to Alina Pop (Ruxandra Porojnicu) and Fiz discovered that they had shared a kiss. The fall-out was explored by returning to the soap’s roots, in a captivating scene reminiscent of its early era.
Having been humiliated when Tyrone failed to summon any enthusiasm for the surprise wedding she had booked, Fiz was determined to get answers. Tyrone also confessed that he felt they were just “treading water” in their day-to-day life.
For a pair who have been affectionately likened to Jack and Vera Duckworth – the iconic, fiery couple whose house they now reside in – Fiz and Tyrone’s long-term family unit hasn’t been nurtured nearly enough. But the attention to detail given to them this week is a welcome reminder of what Coronation Street can achieve when it slows down its pace.
It was refreshing for the soap to examine a couple a little more closely, without the interruption of an evil nanny or the interfering Evelyn (as much as we love her). The stripped-back format allowed the focus to remain on the connection between two beloved characters, and the scene was so engaging that it struck a chord with viewers. The depth and insight into the thoughts and feelings of both Tyrone and Fiz was long overdue.
While dramatic stunts and complex storylines are entertaining as ever, there’s something about watching two people talk candidly without any gimmicks that fascinates us – with this being an instrumental factor in Coronation Street’s early popularity. It’s a nod to ordinary people with ordinary lives, proving that writer and creator Tony Warren’s original winning formula stands the test of time.
Soaps must usually weave a variety of plots into an episode, so extended scenes aren’t always possible. Cutting rapidly from one storyline to another is the nature of the genre, but that hasn’t always been the case for Corrie. This particular 10 minute, uninterrupted exchange will be remembered among many other memorable single strand narratives, gripping the attention of the audience.
It held the same significance as the two-hander between Curly and Raquel Watts upon her brief return, and Hilda Ogden’s devastating solo scene as she mourned husband Stan. Coronation Street knows the power of a simple structure and this is exactly what the show highlighted.
Upon its debut in 1960, half the weekly episodes of Coronation Street were produced and transmitted live and the cast must have felt as if they were taking part in a stage production. In an interview with ITV’s Lorraine Kelly, Jennie McAlpine also remarked that working on this script was like performing a play.
Written by Ian Kershaw, the scene included 18 pages of dialogue, which the actors completed in just one take with no rehearsal. The result was an authentic, honest piece of television echoing the uncomplicated style that first made Coronation Street famous.
Going back to basics also had a positive effect on the current coronavirus restrictions, as social distancing between the pair was much less noticeable. The characters moved around their living room during the tense discussion, and the space between them was typical of any other round-the-house scene throughout the show’s history.
As much as we still enjoy watching a brief chat out on the cobbles, these gritty, uninhibited heart-to-hearts are crucial viewing – and they are almost always reserved for behind closed doors. The house sets on the Street were a big part of the show when it began, and they are just as essential now. The classic scenes mentioned above all took place in the characters’ homes, after all.
This isn’t a demand for less action – the mix of chaotic situations and calmer, straightforward scenes are the perfect balance. Rather, this is the time to recognise those quieter moments that don’t warrant a teaser trailer but have just as much merit. They are often delivered as a surprise; and the familiar, commonplace dialogue is as much of a talking point as jaw-dropping, high-stakes drama.
In over sixty years of broadcasting, naturally Coronation Street has evolved with the times. But by acknowledging that less is more, the soap is honouring its signature style; turning what was initially a standard cheating storyline into an unexpected triumph.