Entertainment & Arts

The Archers: Famous names on jury for Helen Titchener's trial

WARNING: This story contains spoilers

Catherine Tate, Nigel Havers and Dame Eileen Atkins Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Three of the jurors will be played by Catherine Tate, Nigel Havers and Dame Eileen Atkins

A star cast of jurors will be heard deliberating on the fate of Helen Titchener in an hour-long special episode of The Archers.

Dame Eileen Atkins, Catherine Tate and Nigel Havers are among the actors forming the jury for the fictional trial, which comes to an end on Sunday.

Graham Seed, who played Nigel Pargetter for 27 years on the BBC Radio 4 soap, will also voice one of the characters.

Helen faces charges of attempting to murder her husband Rob.

The week-long trial, moments from which have been illustrated by court artist Julia Quenzler, also saw her charged with wounding with intent over the incident, in which Rob was stabbed.

'Unique moment'

It will be the first time in The Archers' 65-year history that a single episode has been extended to an hour.

Sean O'Connor, outgoing editor of the programme, said a "fantastic cross-section of British acting talent from radio, TV, stage and film" had come together to make the jury.

He said: "Everybody we approached agreed to take part with such enthusiasm - some without even reading the script - wanting to be part of this unique moment in the history of the programme."

Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption The jury, seen in the foreground, will deliver their verdict at the end of the episode

Havers said: "There were three things I wanted to do as an actor. Play Max de Winter in Rebecca - tick.

"Be in Coronation Street - tick. Do an episode of The Archers - big tick!"

The stabbing of Rob, broadcast in April, was the culmination of a long-running domestic abuse storyline portrayed by actors Timothy Watson and Louiza Patikas.

Listeners have heard evidence from both sides, building up to the jury's deliberations. They will deliver their verdict at the end of Sunday's programme.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Timothy Watson and Louiza Patikas play Rob and Helen Titchener in the rural soap

Nigel Pargetter's death was broadcast on 2 January 2011, with the character falling off a roof in an episode marking the 60th anniversary of the soap.

Seed said: "How lovely to be asked back to be in this special episode. An honour! A very different character to play of course, and the challenge was not to sound like lovely old Nigel Pargetter."

O'Connor - who has done jury service three times himself - added: "It was a particular delight for me to ask Graham Seed to take part.

"I know many Archers listeners still miss Nigel Pargetter and it seemed fitting that in my last ever episode of The Archers as director and editor, I could offer Graham an appearance in the programme - without him actually turning up in the shower like Bobby Ewing in Dallas."

'Absolute joy'

Other jurors are played by Rakhee Thakrar, best-known as Shabnam in EastEnders, Skins star Aimee Ffion Edwards, Cerith Flynn, who has appeared in Wolfblood and Strike Back, and Tam Williams, who played Havers' role in the stage version of Chariots of Fire.

Three of the remaining jurors will not speak during the episode, set at Borchester Crown Court, and one has been dismissed for contempt of court.

Thakrar says: "Working on this jury special was an absolute joy. Being part of such an iconic and important story for The Archers was an honour."

The Archers Jury Special will be broadcast on Sunday 11 September at 19:00 BST on BBC Radio 4 and will be available later on iPlayer

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