Sunday / BBC1
Gavin & Stacey co-stars Sheridan Smith and Alison Steadman are reunited in this one-off drama, which tackles the heartbreaking issue of dementia care.
It’s written by the superb Jimmy Mcgovern (The Street, Broken) and Gillian Juckes, whose real-life experiences provide the inspiration for the story. We visit the cast during filming to find out more…
NEW Drama Care Sunday / bbc1 / 9Pm
In a hospital corridor in Merseyside, Sheridan Smith steels herself to walk onto a ward. TV Times is on set watching filming for BBC1’S moving one-off drama Care, which explores the strain of looking after a sick loved one and the challenges faced by the NHS and the social-care system.
Written by Jimmy Mcgovern (The Street, Broken) and Gillian Juckes, who was inspired by her own real-life experiences, it sees Cilla star Sheridan play mum-oftwo Jenny, whose life is torn apart when her widowed mother, Mary (played by Hold the Sunset’s Alison Steadman), suffers a stroke while driving her granddaughters home.
Jenny and sister Claire (Little Boy Blue’s Sinead Keenan) are left reeling at the change in their mum, who is paralysed down one side, unable to speak coherently and learning to live with dementia.
When the hospital and a stroke unit have done all they can for Mary, Jenny tries to care for her at home. But as Mary’s needs prove too much for her daughter to cope with, Jenny has to fight to get Mary the best care that she can.
Here, Sheridan, 37, and Alison, 72, tell TV Times more about this challenging drama…
Can you describe your characters? Sheridan: Jenny’s a single mum and has been through a messy breakup. In the opening minutes of the drama, Jenny’s mum, Mary, who helps her with the girls, suffers a stroke and goes on to develop dementia. Jenny must then decide how she’s going to look after her mum with the NHS and with continuing health care. It’s an incredibly powerful film about a young mum who’s struggling. Alison: Mary is a very lively and fun woman, and suddenly – bang – she has a stroke and it changes her life totally. It’s the story of how Mary and her daughters cope, and also how the NHS copes.
What was the appeal of this drama for you? Alison: It’s a challenging role, but one that I approached with relish because I thought it was such a worthwhile piece. And Jimmy Mcgovern is such a good writer that I thought, ‘Whatever he gives me I can trust.’ Sheridan: I’m a big fan of Jimmy, too. I worked with him years ago on BBC1’S Accused. When he said he was working on this script I jumped at the chance. He’s a genius.
What have been the biggest challenges?
Alison: It’s hard to learn to speak ‘gobbledegook’, but it’s good because you see life from a new perspective. Sheridan: One of the more challenging scenes was when Mary has the accident and Jenny’s out looking for her and her daughters. Jenny only hears the crash on the phone, so she doesn’t actually know what’s happened. I’m getting panicky just thinking about it again.
What research did you do?
Alison: I had a consultation with a doctor who deals with stroke patients. A girl I was at drama school with had a massive stroke a couple of weeks before I started filming and so I visited her, but not to do research. When you’ve known someone and they’ve been feisty and chatty and full of opinions, and suddenly they can’t even say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it’s painful. But none of us knows what’s in the loop for us. Sheridan: Alison had done a lot of research to allow for as accurate a performance as possible, so a lot of the time I am purely reacting to her. A number of my friends have had parents and grandparents with dementia, and speaking with them was really helpful. Did this drama make you think about the pressures on the NHS? Alison: Yes. The NHS does its best but it’s stretched. It has just had its 70th birthday and we wouldn’t be without it but it needs millions of pounds and a complete revamp. This drama looks at care homes, too, because if you’ve got loads of money, you can pay for the most brilliant care, but if you haven’t got the money… Something like this will hopefully make people think and will be a good wake-up call because it’s about human beings that need care and attention, and if these services are not good enough, it breaks your heart. Sheridan: When I read the script, I cried all the way through. It really moved me because it’s such an important story to tell. Lots of people will be going through the same situation. They’re a real family and it could happen to anyone. It’s a subject that needs to be discussed.
Care is previewed on pages 44-45
adjusting:Mary’s daughters Claire and Jenny
Grandmother: Mary is active before the stroke