Sun­day / BBC1

TV Times - - My Tv Times Week - Caren Clark

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

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