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Coronation Street boss Iain MacLeod has revealed that he rejected a pandemic storyline that was pitched to him 12 months ago. Speaking at a press conference to mark six decades of Corrie, the ITV soap’s producer said:
“A year ago, when we were talking about what we were going to do for the 60th anniversary, two of our writers pitched a story about a global pandemic that was to have originated in Tyrone’s pigeon loft.
“Tyrone was going to take up racing pigeons in honour of Jack Duckworth. So the illness was going to come in as bird flu and then spread around the Street. But the consensus around the writers’ room was that it was too far-fetched.”
Instead, the Street will celebrate its birthday with the climax to a number of its most prominent plotlines, including the trial of abuse victim Yasmeen Metcalfe and an attempt by residents to save the neighbourhood from being bulldozed by nefarious property developer Ray Crosby.
The upcoming drama will also be more reliant on dialogue rather than the kind of grand spectacle that has become the stock-in trade of soaps in recent years.
“We had to change a fair amount,” admitted MacLeod, “but you’ll still see the fundamental essence of the stories. There is some action – though it’s less than we planned to do, as we had to jettison some ideas for a few more stunts. But there is a high-octane sequence that was incredibly challenging to film.”
In order to shoot the scene in question, extra precautions had to be taken behind the scenes so that filming adhered to government guidelines as regards social distancing: “We had to keep everyone safe, so for the stunt stuff, we had to seclusion bubble the actors and then test them. Only then could they come closer. We decided to push the boat out and be a bit more demanding.”
Actor Michael Le Vell, who has been a mainstay as mechanic Kevin Webster since 1983, expressed some disappointment at the changes to production techniques. “It’s a shame we can’t do the big stunts,” he commented.
“But, on the other hand, it’s good for the actors to now be doing the work rather than having some flash explosions. Because there are fewer characters in scenes, there are more lines to learn.”
Coronation Street was recently presented with a certificate by the Guinness World Records for being the longest-running television soap in the world, while actor William Roache (aka Ken Barlow) – now the last remaining on-screen link to that first broadcast episode on 9 December 1960 – was honoured for being the longest-serving soap star.
But speaking via Zoom from his home in Cheshire, the now 88-year-old Roache dismissed the notion of Corrie being regarded as a mere soap: “I don’t like the term ‘soap’,” he revealed. “I think it’s a derogatory – why are we still called that?
“We are a cutting-edge drama. And it’s very well written, acted and directed. There’s no reason we can’t go on forever.”
Co-star Sally Dynevor, whose own association with Weatherfield dates back to 1986, also predicted a long future both the show and her alter-ego Sally Metcalfe:
“As long as we have the comedy, the tragedy and the more youthful characters coming through, it will be on forever. I hope it’ll last another 60 years and that we’ll all still be there.”
Coronation Street will celebrate its 60th anniversary on Wednesday, 9 December.