DEAD END STREET; ROVERS AND OUT: Corries stars shock.
Out go Sherrie Hewson, who plays Maureen Holdsworth, Nicholas Cochrane, who's Andy McDonald, and Peter Armitage - Bill Webster.
The Street's new Scots producer Brian Park wielded the axe.
The news broke just hours after Thelma Barlow, who has played Mavis Wilton for 26 years, announced she'll quit now screen hubby Derek has been killed off.
Aberdeen-born Park was behind that move - and Don Brennan, Alma Baldwin, Joyce Smedley, Tony Horrocks and Anne Malone have also gone or will soon go.
Even long-running favourites Ken Barlow and Emily Bishop are among those facing uncertain futures.
Park, nicknamed the Mad Axeman by Corrie insiders, insists that no-one is bigger than the show, saying: "The Street itself is the real star."
And that could mean even more major blood-letting among the cast of the UK's longest-running soap.
Nicholas Cochrane said last night: "I'm happy to leave and do other things. I'm only 23 and have plenty of time to develop my career."
But he didn't rule out returning to the Street some time in the future. He added: "I'm sure I'd consider pulling a pint in the Rovers."
Peter Armitage said he had always felt that his role as Bill Webster would be a short-term one.
But he added: "Bill Webster is probably one of the best parts I've ever been asked to play and I'll leave him behind with a touch of sadness."
There was no statement last night from Sherrie Hewson, but Brian Park said the stars will leave when their contracts end in October.
"These decisions are tough but I have to think of the show's future," he said.
Park defended his actions by saying new characters pepped up the soap. He said the current affair between Natalie and Kevin had been particularly effective in hooking the nation.
"This is an exciting phase," he said. "We will ensure that the Street sizzles through the summer."
Following the decision by 67-year-old Thelma to quit, the axings will come as a hammer blow to Street fans who must be wondering whether the show will ever be the same.
And last night, surviving Street stars were left shaking their heads in disbelief at the moves.
Sally Whittaker, who plays Sally Webster, said she hadn't heard that the three were leaving the show.
"I knew nothing about it - I am shocked," she said. "I don't know if they wanted to go or not.
"I did a scene with Sherrie at 4 o'clock, she can't have known, she gave no indication."
Bill Tarmey - Rovers Return landlord Jack Duckworth - refused to believe the news.
He said: "Nobody told me and I've been at the studios all day. I'd be very surprised if it were true."
Friends of Thelma Barlow said morale in the Rovers Return was at an all- time low - but it was business as usual as she arrived yesterday for filming.
Thelma has asked if she can go out of the soap without being killed off - leaving the door open for a return.
A close friend said the punishing film schedules had taken their toll.
The soap now goes out four times a week and some of the longest-serving actors and actresses are fed up.
Thelma's pal added: "Since that started they don't have any rehearsal time. Most senior characters have found that intolerable."
Thelma would have left the show six months ago but decided to delay her departure until Derek, played by Peter Baldwin, had gone.
Now she plans to leave when her contract ends in August.
Peter yesterday said four episodes a week were the Street's downfall.
He said: "It has made a difference to the programme and the departure of Derek and now Mavis is going to upset a lot of viewers."
Divorced Thelma, who has two grown-up sons, spends most of her time at her Manchester flat.
But she is a keen gardener and also has a beautiful stone-built cottage in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales.
Geoff Hinsliff - who played nutter Don Brennan - said: "I'm not suprised Thelma is quitting. She's exhausted and she didn't think she was giving the show her very best."
Stars past and present paid tribute to Thelma's work.
Michael Le Vell, grease monkey Kevin Webster, said: "Thelma's quality as an actress shone through for everyone to see after the death of Derek when her performance on screen took people's breath away."
Jean Alexander, who left the Street after years of playing Hilda Ogden, said Mavis and Rita - played by Barbara Knox - were a great double act.
She added: "I shall miss Mavis very much. Mavis and Derek were also fantastic."
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|Author:||Disley, Jan; Millar, John|
|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||May 24, 1997|
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