DRAMA BBC1 HD, 9pm Sheridan Smith plays a working single mother whose widowed mum (Alison Steadman) has a stroke and develops dementia.
SHERIDAN SMITH AND ALISON STEADMAN star in a powerful drama about a family suddenly faced with serious illness…
FROM A MURDERED wife in The Widower to a cancer sufferer in
The C Word, Sheridan Smith has played some harrowing roles in her time – but perhaps none more so than her latest part in BBC1’S moving one-off drama Care, which explores the emotional strain of looking after a sick loved one.
Written by Jimmy Mcgovern and Gillian Juckes, who was inspired by her own experiences, it sees Smith play mother-of-two and supermarket cashier Jenny, whose life is torn apart when her widowed mother Mary, played by Gavin & Stacey star Alison Steadman, suffers a stroke while driving her granddaughters home.
Jenny and her sister Claire
(Little Boy Blue’s Sinead Keenan) are left reeling at the change in their mother, who is paralysed down one side, unable to speak coherently and has brain damage.
‘Jimmy is a genius. I jumped at the chance when he got in touch,’ says Smith, 37. ‘When I read the script I cried all the way through. It really moved me.
‘It’s an incredibly powerful film about a mother who is struggling. Jenny’s a single parent who has to decide how she’s going to look after her mum. The family just don’t know how to react when something this massive happens.’
When the hospital have done all they can for Mary, cash-strapped Jenny tries to care for her at home, while trying to hold down her job and look after her children. But as Mary’s needs prove too much to deal with, Jenny fights to get her mother the best care she can.
‘Mary has been a very lively, energetic woman, then suddenly she has this stroke and it changes her life totally,’ says Steadman, 72. ‘This is the story of how they all cope. It is very difficult because she needs round-the-clock care. But this is about finding the right care.’
Playing Mary was gruelling, but Steadman admits she was thrilled to tackle such a powerful role.
‘It has been a challenge but one that is worthwhile, and Jimmy is such a good writer that I thought whatever he gives me, I can trust,’ she explains. ‘I approached it with relish, because it makes you think in different ways.’
For her research, Steadman spoke to
a stroke specialist. She has friends who’ve been affected by strokes, too.
‘A girl I was at drama school with had a massive stroke a couple of weeks before I started filming,’ she says. ‘When you’ve known someone and they’ve been chatty and full of opinions and suddenly they can’t even say yes or no, it’s painful.’
The drama also gave the cast pause for thought when it comes to the difficulties faced by the NHS and the social care system.
‘It’s such an important story to tell. Lots of people will be going through the same situation,’ says Smith. ‘They’re just a real family, and it could happen to anyone up and down the country.’
‘The NHS does its best, but it’s stretched,’ adds Steadman. ‘It has just had its 70th birthday and we wouldn’t be without it – but it needs millions of pounds and a complete revamp. Something like will hopefully be a wake-up call.’
‘The family just don’t know how to react when something this massive happens’
A CARE HOME IS NOT THE RIGHT FIT FOR MARY