18 March 2010

Coronation Street: The Complicated Love Life Of Miss Mavis Riley

Rivalry at The Rovers and consternation at The Kabin in 1984... Victor Pendlebury (Christopher Coll), Derek Wilton (Peter Baldwin), Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) and Rita Fairclough (Barbara Knox).

1984 always sounds ominous to me - also being the title of George Orwell's famous novel. Did you know that Mr Orwell took several years to write the book back in the 1940s, and that it was originally to be set in 1980, and then in 1982?

The real 1984 didn't see the arrival of Big Brother - I think that today is far more like that, with the various databases (established and planned) and security cameras logging our every move - but it did see the arrival of the Apple Mac - complete with affordable computer mouse. A revolution was beginning...

The UK edition of Trivial Pursuit arrived and we went trivia bonkers. Sir Alec Jeffreys accidentally discovered DNA fingerprinting, at the University Of Leicester, England (More here). The miners fought a bitter, losing battle; Frankie Goes To Hollywood shocked the charts; the yuppie era was drawing in; V was on the telly and Do They Know It's Christmas? hit the No 1 spot. Agadoo was another chart favourite. Push pineapple, grind coffee? Hmm...

In the world of fashion, shoulder pads were getting bigger and bigger, people were streaking their hair blonde and using hair gel to very striking (or ugly, depending on your viewpoint) effect and moon boots were a must-have, as were Frankie Say T-shirts.

And, in Weatherfield, one woman agonised over the attentions of two very different men...

The love life complications of Miss Mavis Riley, reported in the News Of The World, September 16, 1984

Having met meek-and-mild mother's boy Derek Wilton way back in 1976, Mavis Riley had developed a very diffident, on-off relationship with him. Well, when I say "relationship", I don't mean that anything improper took place, goodness me, no!

But it was more of a (kind of) romance than just a friendship.

And the Derek and Mavis "romance" flickered on, and off, until 1982. In the October of that year, Mavis met one Victor Pendlebury at an evening class, and together they penned a story which was broadcast on local radio. Of course, Mavis was nerve-stricken on the day - was the story too... er... well... earthy? she wondered. But, apart from one or two adverse comments, the local branch of civilised society did not collapse in a heap.

And then, in 1983, Victor, every inch the poetic wanderer of moor and heath, the weaver of words, the potter of pots, asked Mavis to join him in a trial marriage.

Mavis, whatever you may think, wasn't really a fuddy-duddy, despite her dithery ways. Our Miss Riley wasn't totally out of touch with the racy realities of 1980s living, wasn't a total prude - in fact, later in the decade, she was accused of being a "Jezebel" (though only by Derek). But this sort of behaviour, living with a man outside of wedlock, was certainly not for her.

Then, in 1984, Mr Wilton and Mr Pendlebury suddenly made plain their desires to make Mavis their Mrs. And Mavis was left in a hopeless state of dither. Which should she choose?

Finally, she plumped for Derek. The wedding was arranged, the church and the reception were both booked...

But on the big day the indecisive couple suddenly chickened out. Neither turned up at the church. Their feelings for each other were simply not strong enough.

We, the folks sat at home in front of the "one-eyed monster" (as my granny called the telly), were absolutely agog.

The News Of The World had leaked the non-wedding story-line, and, in September 1984, contained an interview with Thelma Barlow.

She worked in an office for years, devoting her spare time to amateur theatre.

"Then I decided the time had come to make a break and really do something about acting," she says.

"So I went off to London, as green as a cabbage."

She got a job with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, and then appeared in plays all over the country.

Thema has been a Street regular for the last 11 years.

She confesses: "I'm not at all like Mavis in real life. Someone like that would drive me mad. I admire strong, positive people, and she's the essence of indecision.

"Unlike Mavis I've long since lost my shyness.

"When you're up there on the tele in front of millions of people, you're bound to meet some of them off screen.

"If you can't stand to be hailed by total strangers you shouldn't be in the Street.

"We're friends of a huge family of viewers and we've got to accept it."

The Street's scriptwriters originally did not plan Mavis as one of the series' main characters.

"I was only supposed to be in one episode, but the character clicked and I've been fluttering over medium sherries ever since," says Thelma.

"There are some good qualities in Mavis. She sticks to her principles at all times and is starting to develop a little bit of steel...

"I can imagine masses of spinsters all over Britain watching me in the midst of all this wedding drama.

"They all obviously picture themselves in Mavis's situation and identify with her like mad.

"That's what makes the whole character of Mavis so very interesting.

"I've got a special picture in my mind of who Mavis is, and I play to it."

And she adds: "I can see me playing Mavis for a long time to come."

This was very good news because I loved Mavis myself - stand aside, Wilton and Pendelebury! And it wasn't the end of Derek and Victor as far as the story-lines were concerned either.

And when Derek proposed to Mavis again, in 1988, through the letterbox of the Kabin door, things turned out very differently...

And Mavis was a "Miss" no longer!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Street is total rubbish now.