Sinead Osbourne’s death from cancer in Coronation Street is sure to go down as one of the most devastating soap exits of recent years, but the approach to filming the young mum’s story was told was just as bold and daring as the plot itself.
The programme made some deliberate and unusual stylistic choices in the last few episodes, which culminated in an hour-long special on Friday 25th October focused entirely on Sinead saying her goodbyes to her family before passing away.
Point of view shots through Sinead’s eyes faded in and out of blackness to indicate the passing of time, while stylised lighting, camerawork and editing stood out from the normal kitchen-sink domesticity – but rather than detract from the rawness and realism of how the illness was portrayed, the extra technical touches were surprisingly effective.
RadioTimes.com spoke to the soap’s producer, Iain MacLeod, about why Corrie broke the rules for once.
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Why did you want to make these episodes feel deliberately different stylistically?
This was a single strand episode with only one story in it, and practically in one location. We didn’t want to play it in real time, and knew we’d be spending a lot of time in the bedroom set which could have looked fairly boring. So we had to find a way to make time pass quickly and make it look interesting.
Hence the fading to black point of view shots?
Yes. It was that feeling of Sinead lapsing in and out of consciousness and the idea that you take a deep breath, relax and fall asleep, then wake up and there’s a different set of people in the room. We tried to play the reality of that. There was a necessity in that we didn’t want to do the episode in real time, but once you examine that necessity it’s actually the mother of invention, and we thought it was an opportunity to get inside Sinead’s head. As painful as it may be, we could experience the world a little bit as she sees it in those final moments.
What about how it was filmed and lit?
There were ways we found to make Sinead’s bedroom set look a bit more interesting. We purposely lit and shot some of those scenes differently to bring a textured feel to the pictures. If we’re getting technical the director used a higher frame rate to give it that ‘other-worldly’ feel.
What did you think was the most effective example of that?
When Billy recited the prayer and everyone is outside in the rain. Hopefully it’s barely discernible but the idea was to give that slightly surreal feeling that I think most people might relate to when something as cataclysmic as this happens. The whole world seems to look different somehow.
How did you approach this with the director?
Shout out to Mike Lacey, he did some incredible work. He really brought scenes to life that could’ve been quite static and protracted. One of my favourite parts was Sinead’s monologue as she recorded the video message for Bertie, it’s a really unusual thing to do in a soap but the combination of Katie’s performance and Mike working with her to find the beats and the chapters within that, the way it was lit and shot and the composition of the pictures was completely beautiful.
Why did you want to treat this particular death in such a different way?
With death, as a society we secrete people in a corner and wait for it all to be over, but it comes to us all in the end. It felt like the most respectful, interesting and least soapy way of doing it was to be right in there and see the difficulties experienced by a couple in that situation, with moments of laughter and warmth still within it. Death is something we short-circuit on TV, as Ken said we’re used to seeing it but it’s usually a bunch of bad guys getting mowed down – we are immune to the realities of death and scared of looking at it properly. The right thing to do was to spend a lot of time in that one room and see how it really transpires.
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