Hedli Niklaus (Kathy) on the bullying storyline

Web Producer, 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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Comments

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  • Comment number 33. Posted by kermodo

    on 25 Sept 2013 10:22

    Martyn is the classic triadic personality type very common these days amongst senior management. The components of the situation now developing has the hallmarks of an Employment Tribunal - victimisation, bullying and harrassment, possible age discrimination, resulting in constructive dismissal. It would be instructional and entertaining to see how this case would be taken through an ET showing its not easy on either side, highlighting the need for evidence and the type of information a judge would found a decision on. Given the changes to employment law, industrial relations generally the BBC would be doing a great public service revealing how an ET is a double edged sword and a solution of last resort.

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  • Comment number 32. Posted by ann

    on 20 Sept 2013 18:23

    Come on, do you honestly think , whatever her circumstances,any woman, would take that bullying and rudeness in such a subserviant way? She deserves all she gets. if I was in her position he would have received a bunch of fives, not a whimpering doormat. Come on Archers writers, get real- I could write a better script than yours-and as for Matt involved with Russian Mafia or what ever they were-it really is an insult to our intelligence.

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  • Comment number 31. Posted by sandymoocow

    on 19 Sept 2013 19:42

    Finding Martyn one-dimensional - like Ray - and the plot predictable. Please be a bit more subtle!

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  • Comment number 30. Posted by Rose McMahon

    on 19 Sept 2013 18:30

    Unfortunately, bullying is seen as something to be tolerated, by those who are not experiencing it, and therefore don't care, and those who stand by and watch while it is happening, which makes them as culpable as the bully. The storyline has no credibility.

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  • Comment number 29. Posted by Nigel Harris

    on 19 Sept 2013 12:56

    Martyn is a 'control freak' and a major downside is that such people seldom take valid contributions from their staff seriously.. Unfortunately Kathy's personality is somewhat subservient and this is endemic in people with low self esteem and a lack of self confidence. I agree with reticule and hope Kathy simply resigns and leaves Martyn to face the music as the golf club unravels.
    Both characters are very well portrayed and the storyline is compelling as I am sure there are many listeners in or have been in similar situations.. I look forward to hearing how this plays out.

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  • Comment number 28. Posted by jjo32

    on 18 Sept 2013 12:16

    'from Trevurr and jjo32: In EASTENDERS a 'real man' would 'take aht Mar'yn'. In MIDSOMMER he'd be (quite rightly) bludgeoned to death with a no. 2 iron. But Ambridge is real life and this will go on....and on... and on. Will Martyn put up for the manager's job himself, or get in a little friend?
    C'm on Matt, you have contacts. Or what about Fat Paul, my favourite silent character? If no tough guys left in Ambridge, there's always Eddie's ferrets....

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  • Comment number 27. Posted by ugly123

    on 18 Sept 2013 09:05

    This situation with Kathy is getting tiresome as she would surely have realised by now there is a hidden agenda Martin is following, could it be constructive dismissal for his own ends. No one would put up with this appalling bullying in this day and age, let's get some reality in the storyline please! In fact a couple of storylines are getting rather into the realms of fantasy, whoever heard of a hotel guest ordering the denial of hotel facilities to other guests. I love the Archers and have listened since it started, it's getting silly now, please get back to reality. Thank you

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  • Comment number 26. Posted by wellow59

    on 17 Sept 2013 21:51

    I have been in a similar situation as Kathy is in - it is called constructive dismissal. Everytime I hear Martyn's voice my blood pressure goes up!! Happily I was in a position to complain over the head of the person making me feel bad about myself and the situation was resolved. If there had not been a successful outcome, I would have gone to my union rep. Does Kathy belong to a union?

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  • Comment number 25. Posted by RichardGilbert

    on 17 Sept 2013 21:37

    I was with The General in his theory on how this ends, but reticule has a lovely idea too. I run a company that helps deal with this kind of stuff and I agree, Martyns do exist and it has nothing to do with size, age or gender as to which role is played by whom. Retribution is usually meted out in Ambridge so maybe Martyn ends up knocking Darrell over after the latter stumbles out from under the hedge he's been sleeping under - The Police arrive and find that Martyn has been in the 19th a tad too long running up his tab and our hero gets to share a cell with whichever Horrobin is currently "At Her Majesty's Pleasure"

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  • Comment number 24. Posted by Liza

    on 17 Sept 2013 18:53

    Bullying in the workplace is illegal! Get legal advice Kathy.

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