Written by Angela Barnes

In The News

Free the Blossom Hill One

The trial of Helen Titchener kicks off in today’s instalment of The Archers. Angela Barnes takes a look at what the verdict might be.

Helen Titchener (Louiza Patikas): listeners await to hear her fate. Photos: BBC.

Helen Titchener (Louiza Patikas): listeners await to hear her fate. Photos: BBC.

It’s almost here. The trial of the century. I haven’t felt this trepidatious since the night of the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games, when we all thought it was going to be a bit shit.

What am I talking about? Why The Archers, of course. Helen Titchener’s trial for attempted murder and wounding with intent kicks off today and the anticipation is killing me.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, then I’m glad to hear you are finally out of the coma you must have been in for the past year. Back in February, I wrote for Standard Issue about a storyline of domestic abuse and coercive control that has been playing out in The Archers (you can read it here) over the last three years.

That storyline took a sharp turn on a night in April when Helen, having endured months of abuse, finally reached a climax of despair, and, in fear for the wellbeing of her son Henry, stabbed her husband Rob Titchener in the kitchen of their home, Blossom Hill Cottage, and the nation cheered.

But she didn’t quite finish the job and Rob lives on to play the victim, continuing to lie and charm his way to the hearts of the villagers of Ambridge. Or is he?

Meanwhile, Helen, having given birth in custody, is now awaiting trial in a Mother and Baby Unit, having been refused bail.

“To be honest, I never really liked Helen very much. But I wouldn’t wish what has happened to her on my worst enemy. Did she do it? Yes. Will she get off? Well, that’s the tricky bit.”

On the night in question, my heart sank. Finally, a drama was tacking the issue of domestic abuse that didn’t involve physical violence. Now we have legislation to protect women against ‘coercive control’ and emotional abuse, I felt it important that these things were being discussed.

This kind of abuse is, because of its nature, usually suffered in silence. The victims are isolated, worried that people won’t believe them, that they are being over-sensitive. At last, I thought, here is a drama that is tackling this issue. Hopefully, it will give strength to these women to speak out. And it seems it has.

Since the storyline began, Refuge and Women’s Aid, who jointly run the National Domestic Violence Helpline, have reported a 17 per cent annual rise in calls from victims seeking support. That is amazing. But is it helpful to have the storyline play out in a situation so dramatic and extreme? Would it have been more useful to people in this situation to see a plausible, safe escape route from their situation? Is it sending the message that drastic action is the only action?

Am I overthinking this? Probably. The Archers is a drama after all, and boy are we getting drama. There have been more twists and dead-end plot leads in this than I care to think about.

So, with that in mind, here is my guide to the trial of the decade, with a look at the key players and little titbits of background that may prove useful in getting the result that we listeners so desperately need. Not want, need.

Helen Titchener

Helen was born and raised in Ambridge. To be honest, I never really liked her very much. She was a bit whiny and took herself and life far too seriously for my liking. But I wouldn’t wish what has happened to her on my worst enemy. Did she do it? Yes. Will she get off? Well, that’s the tricky bit.

Helen has suffered awful abuse, psychological and physical, with at least one incident of rape that we know about. Helen hasn’t disclosed the extent of the abuse to anybody, least of all her brief. Unless she speaks out about what has happened to her, the prosecution are unlikely to buy that it was self-defence. It’s not looking good.

Helen with Rob Titchener (Timothy Watson).

Helen with Rob Titchener (Timothy Watson).

Rob Titchener

This charming man has done nothing but bully his fellow villagers and cause more people to shout at their radios than Churchill’s declaration of war.

In addition to the well-documented abuse of his wife, he’s threatened to punch several people, actually punched a hunt saboteur, deliberately blocked a culvert (I had to Google it, you can too) causing devastation in a flood, doled out homophobic verbal abuse to Adam and Ian and tried to break up their marriage.

And, I’m pretty convinced, he’s murdered Stefan (see below). But he’s a boon to the village cricket team, so, y’know, they’re prepared to turn a blind eye.

Henry Titchener

Henry, Helen’s son by sperm donor, witnessed his mother stab Rob on that fateful night. He is five, though his speaking voice on the show sounds like he’s stuck at about two and a half.

Wob, sorry Rob, has been awarded custody of Henry while Helen is in prison. Rob is playing the part of devoted father beautifully in public. In private, he is busy coaching Henry in what to tell the authorities about his Mummy and how scared she made him.

Before the attack, Rob seemed pretty keen to be shot of Henry, arranging for him to be sent to his old boarding school without Helen’s knowledge or consent. Whatever happens, Henry’s therapy bills in the future will be astronomical.

Jack/Gideon Titchener

Born into a prison, this poor offspring of Helen and Rob is blissfully unaware of the delinquency storylines that are bound to be part of his future thanks to the screwed-up start in life he’s been given. Helen has named him Jack; Rob has decided he is Gideon. I’m going with Gack.

“After the stabbing, Pat mentioned to police that she heard Helen swear that she would kill Rob if he sent Henry to boarding school. Nice one Pat, now you are a witness for the prosecution. Facepalm.”

Anna Tregorran

Anna is the daughter of villager Carol Tregorran and just happens to specialise in representing women like Helen. What a stroke of luck! Anna is The Archers’ first lesbian character, though the way it was revealed in this day and age has made me spit with anger. But that is for another article/rant. It seems Anna lost her last case, so she has something to prove. Can she get the blood out of the stone that is Helen? I really bloody hope so.

Kirsty Miller

Kirsty is Helen’s friend, and was almost her sister-in-law until Helen’s brother Tom ditched her at the altar. Ah, soap operas, eh? Kirsty has had Rob’s number from the start and was the first to see through what was going on. She gave Helen a spare mobile phone and the number of a women’s refuge. After stabbing Rob, it was Kirsty that Helen called and who turned up on the scene. She is now a key witness.

Pat Archer

Helen’s mum. I have screamed at Pat over the past three years almost as much as I have screamed at Rob. She, too, was taken in by Rob and believed he was the best thing to happen to Helen, not questioning when Rob kept her away from the family at Christmas or when he stopped her from driving the car.

After the stabbing, Pat mentioned to police that she heard Helen swear that she would kill Rob if he sent Henry to boarding school. Nice one Pat, now you are a witness for the prosecution. Facepalm.

Ursula and Bruce Titchener

Rob’s parents. Bruce is a man’s man and Ursula knows her place. Five minutes listening to these two and Rob’s behaviour begins to make sense. Ursula was complicit in Rob’s plans to send Henry to boarding school and stood in the way of Kirsty whenever she tried to visit Helen.

Ian Craig

Helen’s GBF (Gay Best Friend) and character witness. Rob tried to drive a wedge between Helen and Ian’s friendship and pretty much succeeded for a while. Helen pushed Ian away when he tried to tell her that Rob was bad news and ignored Rob’s obvious homophobia towards her friends. Ian has come close to twatting Rob a couple of times and Rob often shows his true colours when it is just them in the room.

In a conversation with Rob a couple of episodes ago, Ian “took a phone call”, I am hoping that what he actually did was press play and record (you don’t do that any more do you? Shut up, you’re old) and managed to get a juicy snippet of Rob being vile to play to the court. We shall see.

“Since the storyline began, Refuge and Women’s Aid, who jointly run the National Domestic Violence Helpline, have reported a 17 per cent annual rise in calls from victims seeking support.”

Neil Carter

Anna Tregorran has also called Neil Carter as a character witness. He is chairman of the parish council and has known Helen since she was a nipper. Neil’s busybody wife Susan isn’t too pleased, as she still thinks Rob is a gentleman and is worried it will affect their standing in the village. She needn’t be concerned; everybody already knows she’s a nosy old bag and to be ignored.

Jess

Jess is Rob’s ex-wife who he also treated poorly. In fact, he was still married to her when Helen came along. Before the ‘incident’, Helen met with Jess and began to realise the way she was being treated was abuse. Jess had agreed to meet with Helen’s brief to discuss Rob’s behaviour, but he went and had a word, and she bottled it.

Caz

Caz is Helen’s prison friend. Played by somebody clearly trained at Rada, she’d give Dick Van Dyke a run for his money in the cockney accent stakes. Sporting a Croydon facelift, Caz currently seems to be Helen’s best hope.

Caz too has been abused by a partner and has seemingly been through all of this before. Can she be the one to persuade Helen to spill the beans to her brief? I hope so, because I’d better have endured that accent for a bloody good reason.

Shula Hebden Lloyd

Infuriating hairshirt wearer Shula has been wringing her hands since the incident, because she was a witness to Rob landing one on a hunt saboteur and he persuaded her to lie to the police about it. If she had only been honest about what Rob was capable of, maybe this would never have happened.

She confessed all to Anna, who basically told her that her evidence would be inadmissible anyway as she’d lied in court before, and that she’s better off keeping her mouth shut. Yeah, bog off Shula, stop making this about you, go away, do a few Hail Marys and leave it. I don’t like Shula much, can you tell?

Stefan

Stefan was an Eastern European estate worker, working under Rob when he managed Berrow Farm. Stefan appeared to have uncovered some discrepancies, and possibly some evidence of Rob blocking the culvert that almost caused Charlie Thomas to die in the Great Flood of 2015.

Stefan then mysteriously had to ‘go home’ very quickly. I am convinced Rob did away with him and I am hopeful his body turns up between now and the trial to throw a spanner in the works. I’ve sent Joe Grundy’s ferrets out to try to find him. Fingers crossed.

@AngelaBarnes

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Written by Angela Barnes

Angela Barnes is an award-winning standup comedian. She is sometimes on TV and the radio and is often in a comedy club near you. @AngelaBarnes