If every theatre critic is a frustrated playwright, then every playwright is a frustrated soap opera writer. And here’s the proof: an outstanding group of British stage writers have joined forces to create a ‘live’ soap for the Royal Court Theatre. ‘Peckham: The Soap Opera’ is a 50-minute window into the lives and loves of the people of SE15, penned by an A-list that takes in heavyhitting veteran Roy Williams, Olivier-winner Bola Agbaje, and hip rising stars like Rachel De-lahay and Robin French. Here they prove their credentials by sharing their fave moments from the ‘real’ soaps.
‘EastEnders’ – Dot’s confession
Chosen by Roy Williams ‘My favourite soap moment is an episode of “EastEnders” from the ’80s. It was a two-hander between two of the oldest characters, Dot Cotton and Ethel Skinner. Dot, who the audience had known to be a religious and self-righteous woman, revealed she had once had an abortion. It was a brilliantly written and moving episode about life passing you by.’
‘Sunset Beach’ – The turkey baster
Chosen by Bola Agbaje ‘The most memorable moment for me was from the American soap opera “Sunset Beach”. It was the episode where Virginia drugged Vanessa and used a turkey baster with some stolen sperm to impregnate Vanessa with the child of Tyrus. I used to watch it at college, and the noise in the canteen when the episode played out got us all banned from watching “Sunset Beach”.’
‘Neighbours’ – Michael terrorises Julie
Chosen by Robin French ‘I loved “Neighbours” – a show that was sometimes surprisingly good and often deliciously bad. The Ramsay Street writers’ room lurched between different tones with unearned confidence and utter recklessness. My very favourite storyline was when teen villain Michael Martin went after Julie Martin. With frightening poise and unflinching nerve, Michael played mind games on his annoying step-mum until both she and all of her loved ones thought she had gone mad. Cleverly, he did it to a character the audience really hated – so we were perversely egging him on.’
‘Crossroads’ – It was all a dream
Chosen by Chloe Moss ‘My favourite moment in a soap by a country mile is in the very final episode of “Crossroads” (the revival, not the original). Jane Asher’s character Angel, the formidable manager of the Crossroads motel, awakens from her “daydream” and we discover that she’s actually Angela, a supermarket cashier whose mind has a habit of wandering while on the job. Beats Bobby from “Dallas” in the shower hands down.’
'Eastenders' – Steve Owen
Chosen by Brad Birch 'A character that's always stuck with me is Steve Owen from Eastenders. My cup of tea in terms of character and story has always been quite dark and morally ambiguous and Steve was probably one of the first antiheroes I really got on board with. I suppose if I was of a different generation I'd have been dead into westerns when I was a kid, but I wasn't, so it was nightclub owners with lethal ashtrays for me.'
'Hollyoaks' - Later
Chosen by Rachel De-lahay ‘When “Hollyoaks” did its first “Later” episode there was an expectation we’d see our favourite characters swear and drink. And then the Luke Morgan bullying storyline came to a head. He was held down by three men and raped: the majority of my shock came from not even being aware male rape was a thing. I still think it’s one of the bravest soap moments on British television.’
'Neighbours' – Todd and the van
Chosen by Alice Birch One of my early memories is a soap opera memory. My mum had been a bit worried about letting my sister and I watch 'Neighbours' as we'd started saying 'no' with an Australian accent. She had to impose a full ban on it after aged five I watched Todd Landers get hit by a van (on his way to stop girlfriend Phoebe aborting their baby – heavy stuff for a five-year-old) and did not stop crying for about two days. The ban didn't last particularly long, but my sister was absolutely furious with me for being so wet.
'Eastenders' meets 'Doctor Who' in 3D
Chosen by David Watson 'I've never particularly followed the soaps, but 'Eastenders' did enter my consciousness in a big way back in 1993. As an eight-year-old Doctor Who obsessive, I was thrilled to see, as part of Children in Need night, all four surviving doctors revived for the programme's 30th Anniversary. 'Dimensions in Time' was a two part adventure set in Albert Square, and cross-fertilised a vintage 'Doctor Who' cast with the current 'EastEnders' batch. An obscure, fragmented plot involving Kate O'Mara fiddling about with the timeline, it all built up to a showdown outside the Queen Vic, with hordes of Cybermen advancing on Frank Butcher et al. Looking back, it was perhaps a misguided little fling for both shows. The whole thing was broadcast in 3D, to be watched through tacky plastic glasses collected from cereal boxes. Just in case it wasn't surreal enough.'