Coronation Street Review: Hayley Cropper’s death so moving due to amazing Julie Hesmondhalgh, David Neilson & Debbie Rush!

by Lynn Connolly
roy, hayley, coronation street

roy, hayley, coronation street

In tonight’s double-bill of episodes of Coronation Street, cancer sufferer Hayley Cropper ended her own life by taking a cocktail of drugs…

Which has of course been on the cards for months now, ever since the transgendered character feared that taking the heavy duty painkillers she needed to battle the agony of her pancreatic cancer would cause her revert to her former persona, Harold.

I was lucky enough to be invited to ITV’s studios at MediaCity last week to watch a preview screening of the two episodes that have aired tonight, and to interview cast members Julie Hesmondhalgh, who of course plays Hayley, as well as Debbie Rush and Jennie McAlpine, who play the roles of Anna Windass and Fiz Stape respectively…

During the course of my work with Unreality TV, I’ve attended a lot of screenings and conducted dozens of interviews, however, never before have I experienced the phenomenon of sitting in a room full of journalists in tears.

But that was what happened during the screening of tonight’s incredibly emotional episodes. But we weren’t the only ones weeping, as senior members of the show’s press team blubbed openly too, as did some of the actors.

And when – in small groups – we journalists later interviewed Julie, there was the strangest feeling of genuine grief in the room. The reverence and sorrow was damn near palpable, which is surely a testament to just how moving the scenes were. That in turn is testament to the quality of the acting on Coronation Street…

coronation street roy hayley (2)

In the world of show business – and reporting on it for that matter – there’s some snobiness about soap and the actors who star in them, but the fact is, if Oscars were awarded for serial drama, then tonight’s episodes would’ve, or certainly should’ve, been nominated.

Julie’s portrayal of Hayley in her last moments on this earth was exceptional, and though they are I guess clichés, the words moving, powerful, emotive and outstanding all apply to the performances of the entire ensemble in tonight’s shows.

Debbie’s portrayal of Anna at the moment she realised that Hayley was about to end her life – when she saw Hayley had ironed Roy’s best shirt and Anna subsequently went downstairs to close the café and to keep vigil almost – was a master class in the art of understated drama.

coronation street roy anna

Similarly, David Neilson took his character Roy into areas of emotion that we’ve never seen from him before…

I recall that when Roy and Hayley first learned that her cancer was terminal and Roy telephoned Fiz to inform her, at the time, I noted in an article that David’s economy of both words and movement in that scene – he barely spoke a line of dialogue – made the moment more poignant and touching than could ever have been achieved by an onscreen meltdown complete with weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

And though in tonight’s episodes we saw Roy shed tears and go into a state of panic as Hayley told him it was time, the fact that this was the most emotive and openly demonstrative portrayal of a closed-off Roy that we’ve ever seen from David made it just more special.

coronation street roy

But let’s not forget the writers, the director, the crew and the makeup artists…

Everyone involved in tonight’s episodes took the responsibility of portraying the very real and very serious issue of the right to die in a manner that was both sensitive and intelligent.

coronation street hayley fiz

Bearing in mind that they’re working within the confines and the remit of being a pre-watershed show, depicting a suicide is fine-line territory, but rather than dwell overly on the political agenda presented by the storyline, they chose instead to concentrate on the very human cost of cancer, suffering and suicide…

And in coming weeks, that will be explored further as the Street’s residents react to Hayley’s death and as Roy has to face a life without the only person he’s ever truly loved.

You can click here to read all of the interviews we had with the cast, so all that remains is a look ahead at more of the incredibly moving drama, but as ever, please share your thoughts about the show in a comment box below.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.