Thelma liked the more joyful Christmas episodes: 'A happy one is good! I’d much rather have a really good laugh on Christmas Day.' And she loved the one where Mavis ended up on stage during a panto!!
Thelma Barlow, who played Coronation Street icon Mavis Wilton for 26 years between 1971 and 1997, is one of the stars past and present sharing their memories of the best of Coronation Street Christmases in upcoming nostalgic one-off ITV special, Corrie At Christmas, narrated by another former star Sue Johnston (Gloria Price).
There are almost six decades worth of festive betrayals, break-ups, weddings, babies, tears and tantrums. “It’s going to offer a walk down memory lane,” says Thelma, now 90. “People will be watching and remembering where they were and who they were with when they first saw those episodes!”
Visiting the present Weatherfield set of Coronation Street, Thelma recalls how filming the Christmas episodes always started in October, while the set designers went to town decorating the characters’ homes.
“They were all differently decorated and it was nice seeing what they came up with,” she says. “Mavis’s was very simple, though. She would never have gone over the top!”
Also sharing their Coronation Street Christmas memories are more past stars including Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch), Sally Lindsay (Shelley Unwin) and Kevin Kennedy (Curly Watts) as well as current Street stalwarts, Barbara Knox (Rita Sullivan) and William Roache (Ken Barlow).
They’ve all been involved in some juicy Christmas storylines, but the Christmas episode that most stands out for Thelma is when Mavis accidentally ended up on stage in the pantomime!
“Mavis was the prompt, but somehow she managed to get herself on stage and was terrified to be in the spotlight with everybody laughing,” says Thelma. “She was dressed in her own mousy skirt, while everybody else was in costume. It was so embarrassing for her!”
Thelma’s ideal Christmas episode involved a particular Corrie pairing: “Barbara Knox and Peter Baldwin (Derek Wilton), we loved our scenes together – a good scene involving them and some danger attached to it.
“I looked forward to seeing if there was anything dangerous. I looked forward to it when we had stunt things to do – I think I should have been a stunt woman. I’m not built for one… but I quite like those physical challenges.”
Thelma liked the more joyful Christmas episodes: “A happy one is good! I’d much rather have a really good laugh on Christmas Day.”
Thelma now looks back at playing Mavis for 26 years with plenty of affection: “It was an interesting thing to work on that character each week. For example, when she met a new character she hadn’t been on screen with, you’d have to think, ‘What does Mavis think of them?’ It’s always interesting to work in detail – give all your interest to that one character.
“Overall it was a wonderful experience on Coronation Street. I never thought I could stay for that length of time, as I’d loved the differences in theatre. But it was perfect for me at that time.
“I have good friends in the cast and the crew, too. I’m still in touch with the make-up artists. It was divine – good friends from it and work.”
* Corrie At Christmas is on ITV on Friday December 20