Popular Emmerdale character Marlon Dingle’s (Mark Charnock) life changed forever this week when he suddenly suffered a stroke, just moments after becoming engaged to partner Rhona Goskirk (Zoë Henry).
Distressing scenes in the ITV soap showed how a person’s world can change in an instant. One minute, Marlon was giddy with happiness as he searched his home for Rhona’s engagement ring, and the next he was looking at himself in the mirror, noticing that one side of his face had drooped.
A series of moving, emotional performances followed. Charnock delivered an outstanding portrayal as Marlon, a vibrant character who has now been left unable to speak or move around unaided.
Emmerdale has worked closely with the Stroke Association in order to reflect the experiences of real-life survivors.
Juliet Bouverie OBE, Chief Executive at the Stroke Association says: “We are delighted that Emmerdale and Mark Charnock are taking on this challenging story. As a charity, we are very pleased to have been able to offer our advice and support from the beginning of the process."
She adds: "A stroke consultant, stroke survivor and teams across the charity have helped the Emmerdale production team with all aspects of the story. We are thrilled to see the positive response already received from stroke survivors and the stroke community. We would like to thank Emmerdale and Mark for ensuring a realistic depiction of stroke is portrayed on screen."
We saw Rhona's panic, daughter April’s (Amelia Flanagan) terror and best mate Paddy Dingle’s (Dominic Brunt) turmoil over seeing Marlon so completely different from the man he knew.
Stars Flanagan and Henry broke hearts across the nation with their compelling performances, and the moment Paddy begged his pal to “come back to me, please” was particularly poignant from Brunt. Louise Jameson also played a great supporting role as Rhona’s mother Mary, whose interfering attitude was exactly what was needed in this instance.
Later in the week, news of Marlon filtered through to the village; bringing the community together. From Laurel Thomas (Charlotte Bellamy), who became a confidant for Rhona, to Cain (Jeff Hordley) and Sam Dingle (James Hooton) who shared a rare heart-to-heart; many characters were deeply affected.
The pair contemplated their own health and what they could do to lower the risks of a stroke themselves. As Bouverie explains, scenes such as this could be key in providing important information to viewers.
“Many viewers are able to identify with Marlon’s storyline, including the 1.3 million stroke survivors living in the UK. A stroke can leave people facing the rest of their lives with a disability, and the emotional strain caused by the condition can be devastating on the stroke survivor and their family."
She concludes: “We hope that Marlon’s stroke will continue to raise awareness amongst viewers, as he starts to rebuild his life. Stroke changes lives in an instant, but the brain can adapt. If you think you or someone you know is having a stroke you should Act FAST and call 999 as a stroke is a medical emergency. Anyone who’d like to find out more about stroke can visit www.stroke.org.uk.”
As a result of Emmerdale’s sensitive choices, the storyline was never overshadowed. Instead the material was given the focus it deserved — even in the moments that Marlon himself wasn’t on-screen.
Different Strokes, a charity supporting younger stroke survivors, is also impressed with Emmerdale's approach to the story, with a representative saying: "Roughly 25% of strokes occur in working age people, just like Marlon, and it's believed this figure will increase in years to come. It's fantastic to see stroke and the devastating impact it has on everyone affected finally given the attention it so desperately needs."
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They continue: "We are grateful to Emmerdale for what has felt like a very accurate portrayal and we applaud them for working with stroke survivors and the Stroke Association on the development of this storyline.
"We will be watching eagerly to see how this story develops as Marlon and his family come to terms with his changed life circumstances and all the challenges that this will bring, a reality that our community is all too familiar with."
The charity adds that it's important to see the soap showing that a stroke can happen to anyone of any age. "We are really pleased to see the recognition of two crucial issues regarding stroke – firstly, that it affects people of all ages, not just the elderly, and secondly, how vital it is to get treatment as quickly as possible.
"We would encourage anyone personally affected by this storyline to reach out to us at www.differentstrokes.co.uk."
As we follow Marlon on his long road to recovery, the show promises to continue educating us while offering hope - and for soap viewers there’s no better platform than through a character we’ve known and loved for over 25 years.
Watch Emmerdale star Mark Charnock explain the symptoms of a stroke