Thursday, 21 October 2010

Albert Tatlock And Percy Sugden - How Alike Were They Really?

Percy Sugden (Bill Waddington) interferes in 1987, Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth) enjoys a grumble in 1976.

I was having a good retro Street natter with a mate of mine a couple of weeks back, and he stated his opinion that Percy Sugden had simply been a replacement for Albert Tatlock and cut from exactly the same cloth. Furthermore, he believed that Eddie Yeats was simply a replacement for Jed Stone, Mavis Riley a copycat replacement for Miss Nugent upon her marriage to Ernest - and quite a lengthy list began to emerge of characters that he believed followed templates as originally laid down by the Street's early residents.

It's true to a degree, and this business of archetypal Coronation Street characters has been much discussed over the years. Also, people tend to be "types" in real life too, don't they?

But I think the notion of archetypal characters is sometimes overdone when discussing Corrie, and I'd like to use Albert Tatlock and Percy Sugden to illustrate my point.

How alike were they really?

Looked at broadly, very. Both were old soldiers, war veterans (Albert, First World War, Percy, Second). Both wore flat caps. Both could be difficult.

But Albert was miserable, slow moving - his manner morose. Percy was often horrifyingly cheerful, fast moving, bossy and dynamic.

Albert could be sensitive at times - some of the scenes he appeared in moved me to tears (remember the Monty Shawcross tribute and Albert's distress over Ken and Deirdre's matrimonial discord?). Percy was completely insensitive. He always meant well, but he had all the sensitivity of a bulldozer. Here was the man who regaled Alf Roberts with tales of men who had died of heart attacks shortly after Alf himself had suffered one!

Albert was not an inquisitive man. Percy jabbed his nose into other folks' business at each and every opportunity.

Albert kept quiet about his own brave acts during World War One. Percy's most famous line was: "When you've made gravy under shell fire, you can do anything!" Percy loved a bit of a brag.

Albert was noted for being mean with the pennies. This quality was never remarked upon in Percy.

Moving from character to circumstances, both Percy and Albert were lollipop men in their time, but Albert saw the job as simply a means to raise some extra cash. Percy saw it as a proud and noble public duty. A second career. Albert acted as assistant caretaker to Ena Sharples at the Community Centre for a time. Percy was the caretaker later. But, once again, Albert was simply bringing in some extra cash. Percy was saving the world before lunchtime.

Watching Percy in action in Coronation Street episodes from 1988 and 1989 recently, I am not reminded of Albert in the slightest - apart from the flat caps both characters wore!

I'm interested in how the "difficult" older male characters of the Street have evolved over the decades. Albert was tetchy, Percy interfering and overbearing, and the marvellous Norris Cole of the current day can be as tetchy as Albert and as interfering as Percy - whilst being very much a character in his own right.

Here's to the old men of The Street - from Albert to Percy, from Percy to Norris...

At Back On The Street, we love 'em all!

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