Care

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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.

DEEPLY MOV­ING

‘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.’

THOUGHT-PRO­VOK­ING

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’

SHERI­DAN SMITH

A CARE HOME IS NOT THE RIGHT FIT FOR MARY

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