Sunday, 21 July 2013
1984: The Other Side Of Alf Roberts...
Alf: "I'm doing me New Romantic today. Barm cake is it, lovey?"
Customer: "Barm CAKE? Barm POT more like!"
We were great fans of the character of Alf Roberts here at Back On The Street, especially during his 'Corner Shop cornerstone' era of 1980 to the early 1990s. There was summat about Alfie being the main person behind that shop counter... as Street producer Bill Podmore once said, he was "a Mr Green the grocer waiting to happen if ever there was one", and, although essentially not a very exciting character, he was a brilliant example of Mr Average, played with great integrity and skill by actor Bryan Mosley. We loved Alfie.
But as for exciting, impulsive, etc, etc, well, no he wasn't, lovey. But Bryan Mosley was not Alf, as Weekend magazine revealed in May 1984:
There's more to Bryan Mosley than the staid shopkeeper of Coronation Street
It's always a dull day for Alf Roberts in Coronation Street. He's about as interesting as the rows of baked beans in his corner shop.
That's how most people, even the show's diehard fans, see poor old Alf, who is played by Bryan Mosley. Alf's never happy unless he's worrying about something and despite having man-mad Bet Lynch as a lodger, his only excitement is going off to a council meeting.
But he doesn't have to be a bore. He could be lively, witty - even a bit of a ladies' man. That's what the man who knows him best reckons. Bryan Mosley should know. He's been Alf for more than 20 years and feels that the character has become a forgotten soul.
That could all change this year. Will leap year's tradition of encouraging women to propose to the men they fancy bring romance into Alf's loveless life? He's not had much luck with his amorous adventures since Renee, his screen wife, died - in spite of a brief skirmish with Gail Tilsley's mother (played by Sue Nicholls).
"Alf did actually propose to her," says Bryan. "But secretly I think he was rather relieved when she turned him down. It would have been an uneasy alliance although it might have livened old Alf up a bit. He certainly needs that."
He chugs through the least dynamic lines of script, making as much of Councillor Roberts as he can but convinced that the character has hidden depths.
"I see Alf as a man with hobbies - like studying for an Open University course or wood-whittling. I know he collects magazines about the two world wars bought from Rita Fairclough's Kabin and I suspect he is fairly knowledgeable on the subject but nobody ever does find out.
"Once in the early days he fell out with a character called Brian Rawlinson who insulted a pal of his. Alf laid into him furiously and had to be pulled off by Len Fairclough. And remember the first thing that he and Renee did after returning from their honeymoon? They had a blazing row. But these days Alf never seems to lose his cool."
Beneath the calm, predictable character, Bryan thinks that Alf is pretty lonely - secretly looking over the available women in The Street.
"I don't think that it's only marriage that he is after - a steady companion and a bit of affection would be enough, I feel."
Well, there's always dear old dependable Mavis Riley (played by Thelma Barlow) who's got the biggest library of Mills and Boon romances. "Oh, no. Definitely. She's not Alf's fancy at all. There's no way they could get together."
Bryan thinks that Alf would prefer a younger version of Annie Walker as his 'steady'. "Annie has a snobbish attitude, but Alf enjoyed her company when she was his Lady Mayoress, because she shares his sense of decorum."...
He has plenty of fan letters and proposals from women who see Alf as their ideal mate: "They write saying he's cosy and comfortable, reliable and solid," he says, "and their idea of a perfect husband.
"But I think Alf would rather stay as a batchelor, with a few more flirtations and the chance of finding the companionship he needs. He's very fond of Deirdre you know. Her presence in the shop brightens him up no end and she brings out his sense of humour.
"I'm happy to play Alf. He's a friend and a cornerstone in the dramas of The Street."
So he was. And we loved him for it. We always loved Alfie, but the era 1980-1993 stands as our favourite for the character. We never thought his marriage to Renee worked (although we loved Renee too - as an individual!), but from 1980-1985 the shop scenario settled with Alfie, joined by Deirdre, behind the counter to become a lovely cosy part of Street life. In 1985, things certainly livened up for Alf when the dear old 1960s-style shop went all modern as a mini-market and he married wonderfully awful Aud.
But he remained the dedicated shopkeeper - a natural Mr Green the grocer, just as Bill Podmore had envisaged.