AF­TER 60 years, the scriptwrit­ers of the world’s long­est-run­ning soap opera have re­alised the silent char­ac­ters in The Archers have all the best lines.

Two ad­di­tional episodes, in­volv­ing tem­po­rar­ily ab­sent in­hab­i­tants of the vil­lage of Am­bridge or those who have not been heard on air, will pro­vide par­al­lel sto­ry­lines that will “zip along” at a faster speed than the daily pace, which of­ten matches that of Joe Grundy’s pony and cart.

Rhys, the new bar­man at The Bull, hith­erto judged ca­pa­ble of be­ing in charge of the pub but not of en­gag­ing in di­rect con­ver­sa­tion, will gain the voice of 21-year-old Scott Arthur, a grad­u­ate of the Welsh Col­lege of Mu­sic and Drama.

The ar­rival of a more melo­di­ously­ac­cented ri­val to Jazzer, the roughdiamo­nd milk­man, whose thick-asa-black-pud­ding-sup­per Glaswe­gian ac­cent has mys­te­ri­ously sur­vived spend­ing his teenage years to the south-west of Birm­ing­ham, of­fers a rich prospect of sto­ry­lines un­re­lated to the cur­rent agri­cul­tural cliffhange­r of the ex­tent of Johne’s disease in the Brook­field dairy herd.

De­spite be­ing a cross be­tween Casanova and Rab C Nes­bitt, Jazzer is a hit with Home Coun­ties ladies of a cer­tain age. They pre­sum­ably rel­ish the si­lence of his con­quests.

There are sev­eral silent women in Am­bridge. Most fa­mously, Pru For­rest spoke for the first time in decades – in the voice of Judi Dench – to mark the 10,000th episode in 1989. Her suc­ces­sor as chief mute is Freda Fry, known for her steak and kid­ney pie and other tra­di­tional dishes at The Bull. In her case, si­lence is golden be­cause it rules out di­a­logue with her hus­band Bert, whose con­ver­sa­tion is pep­pered by home­spun hom­i­lies. An ex­change be­tween Sab­rina Th­waite, who has no need of words to at­tract (male) at­ten­tion and Fat Paul, un­suc­cess­ful scholar of the race­track, of­fers more en­ter­tain­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties.

If only the in­suf­fer­able Lynda Snell could be mute.

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