Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Carla and Roy - the Best of the Best

(This post was originally posted by Ruth Owen on the Coronation Street Blog in January 2016.)

Let’s start with the good news. Roy, played by David Neilson, left, but only temporarily, and for just three months. He was treading the boards in theatre and wherever he is and whoever has the opportunity to work with him and watch his performances are lucky indeed.

His twenty year run as Roy Cropper has from the very beginning charmed a nation. Diffident, trustworthy, wise, kind, thoughtful, reliable – are just some of Roy Cropper’s qualities. His particular charm comes out of his being somewhere on the Asperger’s scale so he takes things that people say literally and thus frequently misses the humour that is intended. He misses the nuances of what people mean and has to have things explained in literal terms.

His anorak, his shopping bag and the Woody place him in a former time – a gentler time, a less technologically obsessed time - a time when the nation’s main pastime was not shopping or consuming, television was not available for 24 hours and shops weren’t open on a Sunday and there was half day closing on Wednesday or Thursday afternoons, depending on your region.

He loved Hayley, through and through and she loved him the same way. How surprising then that this much loved couple were indeed that – much loved. Not in any sense flashy, not wealthy, not fashionable, but two people of first class characteristics. Each brought out the best in the other and there is not much more you can ask for in this life.

His childhood with a mother such as Sylvia cannot have been easy, especially for someone like Roy who, finding himself to be at odds with other children would have benefited from a fierce and demonstrative mother’s love. Nobody said life was fair and for Roy, with a mother who, currently, is putting her energies into sending away carers by the bucket load. No wonder Roy became a major procrastinator as Cathy tried to persuade him to go to Hastings.

To briefly revisit Hayley’s illness and death, and it does bear repeating, that the trip to Blackpool and especially the dancing in the Tower Ballroom was a wondrous television soap moment or two.   

Roy’s friendship with Carla is a masterstroke by the writers. On paper it shouldn’t work. In reality it clearly does work. Their friendship developed over the course of Hayley’s diagnosis, illness and death. The actors, David Neilson and Alison King, are at the top of their craft and in their capable hands, almost anything would work

Put simply, Roy is unique. He is in the midst of the community in Roy’s Rolls and yet he is, and always will be, a man apart

As for Carla, played so brilliantly by Alison King, I will miss her greatly. When it was first announced that Alison King would be leaving, I am pretty sure that it was to be a temporary absence and that Alison King had every intention of reprising her role as Carla Connor. Then it was reported that the break wasn’t temporary, in fact it wouldn’t be a break at all. She was leaving the cobbles. For good.

Carla is riddled with faults. She drinks too much, she gambles, she sometimes engages in destructive relationships and she has taken other women’s husbands – Liam Connor, who was married to Maria and Peter Barlow, who was with Leanne.

Carla though has had bad things happen to her: her childhood, her brother murdering Tina, the discovery that Johnny is her father, being raped by Frank Foster, Peter’s affair with Tina, to list just some.

Carla though, to my mind anyway, is the most interesting of the women on the cobbles. Alison King succeeds in conveying Carla’s toughness along with her vulnerability. Her need for independence is a part of her and yet the temptation to throw in the towel with Nick, who undoubtedly loves her, as she only too well recognises, is an answer for her, a resolution. Sadly, it seems to me that Nick is more of a safe bet than the man of her dreams,  an answer and a solution to her persistent insecurity.

Carla is a force of nature: charismatic, intelligent, sometimes moody, tough with her staff though occasionally appreciative and kind. She has the measure of Sally, but recognises her organisational skills outweigh the irritation she causes.

What really put her at the top of the tree in my eyes, was the love and care she showed for Hayley. Two unlikely women to forge such a friendship but the genius of Alison King and Julie Hesmondalgh combined, made it work - and it was sublime.

After Hayley’s death, Carla did not walk away and leave Roy stranded She went out of her way to show her friendship towards him and now, the two of them have developed a friendship which is only pure and good. In so many friendships, one may be using the other to exert power or to claim some kind of advantage for themselves. Not so here. The two of them genuinely look out for each other.

Whether a temporary or permanent departure, not having these two on our screens is a great loss for us all.

Deirdre: A Life on Coronation Street - official ITV tribute to a soap icon. Available here.

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