With that being so, he’s certainly made the most of the opportunity to get himself back into the colourful specs and natty blazers of his soap creation during the big celebratory year. He starred in Street DVD spin off A Knight’s Tale, made a spectacle in a themed episode of Come Dine With Me, and now is taking on the role of Narrator in Corrie!, a new comedy play coming to the Empire later this month.
“It’s such a huge event, a show lasting 50 years, several times a week, nobody has ever done it before. And it’s not just in this country, it’s international.”
Morley played Reg Holdworth from 1989 to 1995. Head of Bettabuys supermarket and relentless ladies’ man, he became one of Coronation Street’s most memorable comedy characters. But there was more to it than mugging about with Curly Watts and popping Sherrie Hewson’s waterbed – much more, according to the Chorley-based actor.
“Reg was an iconic character. He was part of that great 1980s surge, when all those huge supermarkets were built and consumerism went wild,” he says. “And I remember post-war severity, living through that – the other end of the scale to the spending to capacity we have today. Holdsworth is part of that. It was a satire of that type of middle management who see themselves on the cutting edge of business, who are now paying the price through their gluttony – making sure everyone can have avocados all year round and all that – and are now facing years of austerity.”
Morley didn’t audition for the role, and based his character on a real-life supermarket manager he knew, close to a nervous breakdown under a self-imposed pressure to provide more and more variety for his customers. “There was no remit for the character, I just did what I wanted and it took off,” he said. And, in the same vein, what gaveth Reg Holdsworth also tooketh away.
“It was five and a half years of great fun for me. Until a new producer came in one day and said she felt the show should be dealing with more serious social issues like EastEnders, and I took it as a point the comic characters would be chopped. So I put on my parachute and jumped out. I never had any regrets.”
Despite the current ubiquity of his shelf-stacking alter-ego, Morley says he needed some pursuading to take to the stage in Corrie!. The play, by Coronation Street writer (and Liverpool lad) Jonathan Harvey, was commissioned by the show to mark its 50th anniversary. It premiered at the Lowry last year and is just beginning a national tour. The show pays a comic tribute to some of the best loved plots of the long-running soap, with six actors taking on some 50 characters.
“I’m a complete cynic, and I thought it was going to be a complete load of crap,” Morley says plainly. “Then I began to hear on the grapevine it was a good show. Then I saw it for myself, and people were right. In a way, although they’re real scenes from the programme, they are satirised in themselves. They reflect how things have changed. It’s laughing at ourselves, it’s laughing at the plots, but there’s a reason for each scene and why it is important. It’s a satire, and it’s very good and it’s very funny.”