(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog in January 2014, reposted with permission.)
Last Friday I made a very special trip to Coronation Street's new home at Media City in Salford. As I sat on the train up from London I had mixed emotions. I'm always thrilled to visit Manchester, home of my favourite television programme, however this time, the joy was tempered with both sadness and trepidation. I was making the journey to see a preview of Julie Hesmondhalgh's final scenes as the legendary Hayley Cropper.
I first met Julie Hesmondhalgh back in November and she was everything you would hope she would be, funny, warm, kind and considerate with a real refreshing honesty. Without a doubt Coronation Street will miss both Hayley and Julie. However I do believe Hayley's exit storyline has been beautifully and truthfully played out and is a fitting tribute to nearly sixteen years of wonderful onscreen moments.
Corrie's producer Stuart Blackburn introduced the afternoon to the assembled journalists by describing the Croppers' storyline as a true love story. Roy and Hayley's love story has had a beginning, a middle and sadly now it must come to an end. We all knew this was coming but believe me the end when it comes still takes your breath away. This blog isn't a review of the episodes for I think each and every viewer must be allowed their own moment when the episodes are aired. Every Corrie viewer will have their own particular moment that resonates and there are so many to choose from.
We saw both Hayley's final episodes and quite honestly, David Neilson and Julie Hesmondhalgh blew me away. It was very Roy and Hayley but it was on a different level again. Afterwards Debbie Rush said that for her, it was up there with Hilda opening up Stan's glasses case after he'd died and I totally agree. It was beautifully written and played really sensitively without avoiding the difficult subject. At the end, everyone sat in the dark for several minutes without saying a word, which is probably the best reaction they could hope for.
I think it was Roy who affected me the most - I don't think I've seen Roy properly cry before so seeing him show that much raw emotion really got to me. Jennie McAlpine said that Roy and Hayley had been such a success because while they had started off as the odd couple in the show, by the end they were the most normal, realistic characters in Corrie and I think she's right.
Several of the journalists present commented in the interviews that followed that they had never attended a media event quite like it before. Each interview session, with Julie Hesmondhalgh, Debbie Rush and Jennie McAlpine was thoughtful, considered and fairly muted. Julie has been sent the episodes the night before due to her current rehearsals for her new play, however Debbie and Jennie were watching the episodes with us for the first time and despite their heavy involvement with the story onscreen, they were both very genuinely moved by what they had seen. Jennie said she was watching Roy and Hayley, not her friends David and Julie and I think that was such an accolade to two of Coronation Street's finest actors.
If David Neilson and Julie Hesmondhalgh do not win all the awards going for these beautiful, moving performances, I'll want to know the reason why.
Prepare yourself for some blindingly good acting, writing and directing when Hayley's story comes to an end later this month. It really is Coronation Street at it's storytelling peak.
Altogether, a day I will never forget.
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