Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Kate Chisholm

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Kate Chisholm

Article excerpt

'Isn't thatcharming !' Carol declares at the height of the great Home Farm cocktail party, after being subjected to Jennifer's somewhat over-enthusiastic description of her wine storage unit. Just three words but such a lot of meaning.

Carol Tregorran's resurrection in Ambridge after decades of silence is a stroke of genius byThe Archers team (led by Sean O'Connor), and almost, but not quite, makes up for the absurdity of the Elizabeth/Roy storyline, still not resolved and likely to linger on for weeks yet, Elizabeth struggling to put Roy back where he belongs, Roy transformed from a cheery family man into a lovelost shadow of his former self. Carol's return, though, has restored something that's been missing from the Borsetshire village for years. A sense of humour. That wicked turn of phrase. A willingness to poke fun, on air in the middle of a scene, at the whole conceit of Ambridge and its rural folk. She's not afraid to show up the soap for what it is: a bit of escapist make-believe whose characters are two-dimensional storyboards on to which we pin our hopes, fears and dire thoughts.

'It's lucky Jenny watched that,' says Carol, referring to the filmBabette's Feast and to Jenny's ludicrously precious preparations for her party, 'and notThe Silence of the Lambs .' We are, of course, all supposed to remember it was once rumoured that Jenny was having an affair with Carol's now-dead husband, John. Did Carol know about the affair? Who cares. She just says what we all think and wish we had the nerve to say but never dare. No one else took on that role in Ambridge after Carol left the cast back in 1990, but I never really noticed it was missing until her return made it obvious.

As Carol chatted with Peggy and Jill over lunch earlier in the week at Grey Gables -- where else? -- I realised, too, what's been happening to Jill in the past few years. Instead of being a bit of an outsider, with an irreverent take on all things Ambridge, she's been diminished and turned into a rather frumpyhausfrau , bound up with family and the farm. When did we last hear her wicked giggle? When did she last make us laugh? Being with Carol has brought the real Jill back to life, thank heavens.

Carol is of course none other than Eleanor Bron. It's a real coup for the soap, tempting such a star of stage and screen to join the cast. And, perhaps surprisingly, Bron has blended in immediately. …

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