Coronation Street has always been the warmest and most obviously comic of the soaps. So as the show celebrates its 50th anniversary, it makes sense for a romp through the famous plots and characters to be squeezed into a speedy stage comedy.
Katherine Dow Blyton (Deirdre) Simon Chadwick (Ken) in Corrie! at the Lowry, Salford
There’s no plot and barely any emotional impact. Instead, writer Jonathan Harvey amplifies the humour (and the inherent farce) of a soap format obsessed with marriages, affairs and the odd mass murderer. And Harvey should know - he writes the television show’s scripts.
Just five actors - plus narrator Charles Lawson, who starred as Jim McDonald in the soap - play the iconic characters from the past 50 years, via some impressive wigs and costume changes. In that sense, Corrie! has the feel of a sketch show-cum-pantomime, with many of the best scenes and lines from down the years gleefully re-enacted. The unveiling of Hilda Ogden’s wonky “murial”, Alan Bradley’s death via a Blackpool tram and Ken Barlow and Martha Fraser’s doomed canal boat romance are genuinely funny. And while sometimes Corrie! does creak under the weight of its concept, Harvey’s not afraid to laugh at that, either. One scene begins with Lawson announcing there will now be “ten years of plot in two lines of dialogue”.
Of course, even the best sketch shows can be hit and miss, and not all the characterisations are as impressive as Katherine Dow Blyton’s Deirdre or Simon Chadwick’s Ken. Corrie! also completely relies on its audience knowing and loving Coronation Street. One for the fans, then - but with almost ten million tuning in to every episode, it’s hardly niche entertainment.