Onto the Lass O’Gowrie for the full run of this week’s live episodes, penned by Jack Rosenthal, comprising tonight’s episode “The Wedding of Dennis Tanner, Part 1” which concludes on Tuesday before The Ogdens on Wednesday/Thursday and the omnibus of all three episodes on Sunday.
It’s the day before Dennis Tanner’s wedding to Jenny Sutton and with the respective Hen and Stag nights about to happen and families gathering on the street, Dennis is faced with a problem that could scupper the wedding entirely..
David Crowley and Jeni Howarth Williams star as Dennis and Elsie Tanner. The bond between mother and son is ably acted and convincing, especially when topping and tailing the episode as Elsie cooks her son’s ‘final’ breakfast, and when Dennis turns to Elsie for help at the end of the episode. Jeni Howarth Williams especially portrays Elsie’s fragility at ‘losing’ her son very well. There are definite shades of Philip Lowrie’s performance as Dennis in David Crowley’s version of the character, Lowrie’s impishness reflected neatly in Crowley’s performance.
Once again, the partnership between Val Tagger’s sublime Minnie Caldwell and Russell Dixon’s show-stealing Ena Sharples is one of the highlights of the episode. After being absent, Ena makes a memorable reappearance in the Rovers and proves what ingenious casting Dixon is. One thing is for the audience is not to stand in the way of Ena’s stare as it will have you quaking in your boots! Amy Searles also really manages to sell the young Jenny Sutton to us in her stand-off with Ena towards the end of the episode.
I commented to Gareth, the co-Producer, that the women of Coronation Street from this period are portrayed as strong, he replied, that rather than strong, they were ‘resilient’ – and he is right. Saying that the women are strong would mean that by definition Jack Walker and Stan Ogden et al are weak, and this isn’t the case. Rather it is scripts like this, which let us not forget, is just a atypical episode, that help to define the women as resilient. Jo Mousley’s Linda Cheveski is shown as making her way in the world and Emma Edmondson’s Lucille Hewitt is also shown to be the ‘modern’ woman at a sharp contrast to women like Minnie and Ena. These three episodes show us that Hilda, Ena, Elsie and Annie are all born fighters, all in their different ways, but they have been very well served in Rosenthal’s scripts in a marked contrast to the ‘battleaxes’ of the current incarnation of the Street, and indeed other soaps.
Staged as promenade theatre within the pub itself, fantastic use is made of the bar area, representing the Rovers and the rear of the bar, decked out as the interior of the Tanner’s and Minnie Caldwell’s. Anyone with even a passing interest in archive TV, or looking for a unique theatre experience would be well advised to go to this immersive and accomplished production before it is too late.
“The Wedding of Dennis Tanner, Part 2” is on Tuesday 10 January with “The Ogdens” following on Wednesday 11/Thursday 12 January and an omnibus edition of all 3 episodes on Sunday 15 January. Tickets are available from www.lassfest.co.uk – performances will be supporting Myeloma UK, so please dig deep where possible.
Picture copyright Debbie Manley