Coronation Street- First cast photo- 1960.
Coronation Street- First cast photo- 1960. Contributed

Still street smart 50 years on

FIFTY hours is a lot of time in TV.

Fifty episodes is a feat for any series in recent times, what with ratings-hungry networks and increasingly fickle and time-poor viewers.

But 50 years in television is a milestone achieved by only a handful of series.

British soap Coronation Street is part of that elite group. Following the lives of working class people in Manchester, the series regularly attracts more than 10 million viewers.

In September last year it overtook American soapie As The World Turns to become the world's longest-running TV soap opera currently in production.

The ITV series then celebrated its golden anniversary in December with seven consecutive episodes, culminating in a special live episode airing on the show's birthday on December 9.

It was a dramatic week for the cast and crew both on and off set. Not only was there an hour of live television to produce, but the residents of Coronation Street were also dealing with the aftermath of a tragic tram crash.

Residents Ashley Peacock and Molly Dobbs (played by Steven Arnold and Vicky Binns), as well as a taxi driver, were killed in the crash, and Rita Sullivan (played by Barbara Knox) was lucky to survive after being buried under rubble.

The tram crash aired in Australia on UK TV on Tuesday and Aussie viewers will get to see the 50th anniversary episode on Friday.

Actor Katherine Kelly, who plays 29-year-old barmaid Becky McDonald (nee Granger), says it has been a magical time to be a part of the Coronation Street cast.

“It was such a privilege to be a part of the show in its 50th year,” she said during a recent trip to Australia.

Kelly says the live episode was a nerve-racking but exhilarating experience.

“It was a mixture of nerves and excitement but I've done a lot of theatre in the past,” she said.

The South Yorkshire-born actor is certainly no stranger to live drama. She performed in both Stratford-Upon-Avon and the West End with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2004 and 2005 before she landed her Coronation Street role in 2006. She studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

The tram crash also revealed a darker side to Kelly's character, which the actor says she is enjoying. Becky took advantage of the crash chaos to steal money from the corner shop in a bid to “save” her nephew Max from his mum Kylie.

“No matter how far Becky has come, her default mechanism is always survival,” said Kelly.

“The writers have never kept her happy for very long as there's no drama without conflict.”

And her performance as the Rovers Return's feisty pint-puller has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this month she won Soap Personality of the Year at the British Television and Radio Industries Club Awards.

After her recent holiday in Australia, which included a visit to the Whitsundays, Kelly said she would love to land a part on local soap Neighbours.

“I'd love to put in for a transfer, but they're not having any of it,” she said.

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