Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: The Archers and the Cricket

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: The Archers and the Cricket

Article excerpt

It was a toss-up on Sunday between the atmosphere in the Radio Five Live Sports Extra studio in Kolkata for the last over of the cricket world cup (England versus West Indies) and the high-velocity drama of that evening's episode of The Archers . Which was the more dramatic? In one room my husband was shouting at the radio, 'Go on, Stokes!' In another, an hour later, I was staggering towards an armchair, all thought of cooking dinner quite beyond me, after listening to the dénouement of the Helen and Rob story. Who would have thought radio could be so dangerous to the blood pressure?

In the heat of the moment, as the Eden Gardens stadium erupted, the exhilaration, and dismay, of Jonathan Agnew and co. was so intense you could not help but catch it through the airwaves. Just as electrifying was the scene at Blossom Hill Cottage in Ambridge as Helen finally plucked up the courage to tell Rob she was leaving him -- without thinking first about what he might do when she told him or even where she might go. This seemed odd and frankly foolhardy. Her friend Kirsty, too, was worried. But still I did not suspect that what we've all wanted to happen for so long, worn out by our anxieties for Helen, was about to unfold.

Sure enough as soon as Rob saw the half-packed suitcase lying on their bed he went ballistic, fatally picking up a kitchen knife...Then it all became a bit confused and I'm still not sure what actually happened although by the time you read this we'll presumably know the truth, or will we?

Was it 'good' drama? That depends. Some of the writing was superb as Rob switched from monster to charmer, twisting Helen into knots until she no longer knew what to think. But the introduction a few weeks ago of Rob's mother (even more evil than him) never seemed to be true to the storyline, while Sunday-night's episode was shocking not so much because of the script itself but because of what the writers made Helen do.

The most troubling thing about the Helen and Rob storyline, which has taken so long to build, is not that it almost feels real, so intimately has it invaded our kitchens and bedrooms, our thoughts, our headspace. But the realisation that we, the listeners, are the only witnesses to what actually happened not just on Sunday night but for much of the past few months. (The only other person to have overseen the horror is little Henry, that poor child born of donor insemination when Helen was still single.) We alone can tell the court how beastly Rob has been and that he deserved what he got. …

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