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The Archers star: Listeners should expect a new style to Ambridge soap

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The cast are communicating with each other via a WhatsApp group.

Charlotte Martin

Fans of The Archers should expect a “new style” to the world’s longest-running soap which could take a “few episodes” to get used to, the voice behind busybody Susan Carter has said.

Bosses had to bin scripts to record episodes in lockdown, which will air from Monday and reflect the Covid-19 crisis in Ambridge for the first time.

Charlotte Martin, who joined the cast 38 years ago, told the PA news agency that “fantastic scripts” had been produced, featuring the characters’ thoughts and musings.

“Listeners should expect a new style of Archers. Obviously, with lockdown restrictions we have had to be creative in the way we produced the programme,” she said of the BBC Radio 4 show.

“We very much wanted to continue to broadcast. We know that listeners are very committed and dedicated to The Archers and would hate it if we were unable to keep broadcasting.

“It will be the reflections of individuals rather than interactions with one another. It will be different. I think it will be enjoyable.”

She said the soap would still provide a dose of “escapism” and – unlike the real world – all the residents should be safe.

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“As far as I know we have no casualties,” she said. “Fingers crossed.

“It might a few episodes for listeners to get used to the new style. I think it’s going to work. From what I’ve heard and done myself we’re doing a great job.”

Martin added: “For Susan particularly, this has been an interesting time, that’s all I can say.

“She is always chatting and talking and gossiping about somebody so you can imagine how interesting it will be to listen to what is going on in her head.”

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All the cast are recording from home, which has its challenges.

“A studio is soundproof, whereas suddenly we were having to do it in our own homes,” Martin said.

“I’ve got my two daughters home and making sure everything is quiet, that nobody is opening doors, that was tricky.

“I think my husband came up the stairs at one point and we had to redo that!”

Charlotte Martin plays Susan Carter in The Archers (Gary Moyes/BBC/PA)

She said the much-loved programme will “evolve” in the new format.

“There may be ways that we can get actors talking to each other or create ways in which we can interact with more than one character at a time but that will be in the future.”

The way reality has intruded into Borsetshire is “unprecedented”, Martin said.

“There’s overuse of that word but I can’t think of any situation that has affected the programme so dramatically.”

She said she missed her co-stars, “because we are normally bouncing off each other”.

But she added: “We’ve got a lovely Ambridge WhatsApp group so we all keep in contact with each other regularly. We are very supportive of each other.

“We dreadfully miss getting together and recording and just meeting up … We’re missing all that but the WhatsApp group has been fantastic.

“We’re sharing all sorts of interesting news and Gifs and videos. I think that’s kept us going and created a real family atmosphere.”

The lockdown episodes come after The Archers aired archived content because it took longer than anticipated to make the new episodes.

“To be able to be part of this and keep the programme going, I’m incredibly proud”, Martin said. “I can’t express it really. it’s fantastic to be part of.”

– The new episodes of The Archers start on Monday on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds.

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