The saga of Roy and Hayley has been the sweetest story-line in the history of soap. The final act now unfolding is as fine and affecting a piece of popular culture as we have ever been gifted, written with a deft and delicate hand, performed with exactitude and total conviction by David Neilson and Julie Hesmondhalgh.
It is in the nature of soaps that we should come to believe we know the characters. That’s the point. No other genre requires such eager suspension of disbelief. No other characters have ever been felt as closely-known as Roy and Hayley. That’s what has made the story of Hayley’s imminent passing not just engrossing but personally distressing for millions of viewers. We tune in because we cannot bear to watch but are neither able to look away.
The programme made a daring decision to show Hayley wanting to choose to die not just because of the pain and indignity that comes with the advance of her cancer but on account of terror than her physical decline might erode her identity as a woman. For years, Corrie has allowed Hayley’s transgender status to be taken for granted. Rarely referred to, never disparaged, just as it should be. Her fear that the person she once was, Harold, might loom through the confusion of the palliative drugs as she fades will bring the issue of gender identity and the morality of the “right to die” into focus in our living rooms as never before.
Who’s life is it anyway, indeed?
Well-wrought stories, rounded, credible characters, top-of-the-range writing, acting that Old Vic would stand to applaud…Coronation Street is just the best.