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25/07/2017
BBC Radio 4

Hedli Niklaus (Kathy) on the bullying storyline

Writer, The Archers

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Hedli Niklaus (Kathy Perks)

With Kathy’s work situation becoming intolerable, I spoke to Hedli Niklaus, who as well as playing Kathy runs the Archers Addicts fan club.

The link between the rape and the bullying.

For Kathy, the rape was the biggest life-changing, personality-changing story. Once you’ve been violated in that way there’s a profound insecurity that can take a long time to come to terms with. So with the current storyline, there is a weakness. That’s where bullies are very clever because consciously or unconsciously they tap into a vulnerability in their victim.

Martyn tells Kathy not to worry her 'little head' (23 Aug 2013)

 

Listener reaction

I’ve been very interested in the comments on the Archers Addicts forum, which have ranged from a lot of anger with Kathy for not managing the situation to a complete loathing of Martyn. When we look at someone else’s situation, we’re very clever at working out how they should deal with it and we actually forget all the complexities in that person’s character.

With Kathy’s history, it’s no surprise to me that part of her is in a funk. She’s tried all sorts of rational and sensible things and Martyn has smacked them back. She’s being constantly belittled and that’s also influencing her decision-making.

I’m also interested in those people on the forum who have been in this situation themselves. You get people on one who say “Kathy, you are a numpty, you are so wet. Fight him back. Tell him what to do”. And then you get messages from people who say “actually I’ve been in that situation and you don’t know what to do’. It’s an undermining and a constant belittling that you can’t deal with.

Playing Kathy

I like the stories that Kathy has had. I like the fact that she finds life difficult. In soaps we always want people to resolve issues. She does sometimes, but she’s a kindly sort of person and she doesn’t particularly want a lot of upset and aggro.

Because she’s an ordinary woman who people can identify with, you want the character to be your mouthpiece for your strongest self. That’s why we get so satisfied when tables are turned, villains exposed and people get their come-uppance.

I loved all the trouble with Jamie. Again there was a mixed bag of responses. On the one hand it was “come on, treat him like an adult”. And then there were loads of people saying “I’ve had a summer like this with my kid”. I like the fact that she rouses these deep emotions.

Martyn wants solutions, not problems (Sep 2013)

Working with Jon Glover (Martyn)

Jon is an absolute delight. He and I really hit it off. One of the things I adore about voices is that you can get a vocal chemistry: the vocal quality of Kathy’s slightly lighter range and Jon’s deeper range – and that wonderful smug, patronising nasal twang. And his sentences are always full stops. They don’t ask, they just tell.

The other thing about which I found fascinating is that there’s been a lot of “oh nobody is really like that, this is too much”. And then there are all the people who say they know from their own experience that Martyn does exist. He’s out there in the workplace.

Keri Davies is an Archers scriptwriter and web producer.

 

 

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