Coronation Street is iconic. Its characters, writing, and history are the stuff of legend, which makes it dangerous territory for any writer to explore or even skirt around. Comparison with the genuine article is inevitable. However, it's a challenge to which writer and actress, Rachael Hallwell, has risen superbly.
Susan White is more than a little OCD and has chosen to hang her obsession on ‘The Street's’ Deirdre Barlow because Deirdre was on the cover of the TV listings the week Susan was born. Well it has to be a sign they were meant to be intimately connected, doesn’t it? We are taken on a journey from seemingly harmless obsession to a much darker place. All the while, however, Halliwell strikes a balance between a tragic reality and gentle, but cutting, Northern humour for which the Street is famous.
Halliwell’s, performance has shades of Julie Walters, a dash of Penelope WIlton, and the look of a young Helen Fraser. Her performance is acute, tragically real (it could so easily just be a stereotype), and amusing, an excellent example of a well-balanced piece of writing, matched by a well defined performance.
Halliwell has chosen wisely in selecting Deirdre, one of ‘The Street's’ slightly straighter residents, as the object of Susan's focus; an obsession with one of the camper characters could have taken the piece towards stereotype. The choice of Deirdre keeps it grounded and believable. Bet Lynch & Me just wouldn't have worked as well.
Will this show appeal to everyone? No. If you have no idea who Deirdre is you may be somewhat lost throughout the first half of the play with references to her many surnames, Pottery classes, and, of course, Tracy’s tapes. If you do know the references (of which there are many and they are clever), you’ll scream with laughter at them all. As the piece progresses, however, Deirdre becomes almost incidental to the rather tragic tale that unfolds. Perhaps the second part of the show could have explored darker elements further, but this is a well-honed piece without any padding.