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Heidi by Johanna Spyri, adapted by Berlie Doherty

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BBC Radio 7, 11 January 2009
 
This was a charming adaptation of a classic tale (now released in the BBC Radio Collection) of an eight-year-old girl (Ciara Janson) sent to stay with her grandfather (Richard Johnson) in the German mountains, but later forced to move to the city of Frankfurt as companion to the disabled twelve-year-old girl Clara (Kirsty Adams). Although happy in the older girl's company, Heidi pines for the mountains, and eventually becomes so depressed that her doctor eventually allows her to go. At last she can escape the authority of the sadistic Frau Rottenmayer (Rosalind Knight) and resume her quasi-edenic existence. The story ends happily as Clara visits Heidi and learns to walk, while Heidi's grandfather abandons his hermit-like existence and returns to civilization once more.
 
Janet Whittaker's production stressed the differences between the country and the city. While Heidi's life with her grandfather was a primitive one, she nonetheless had the freedom to discover things for herself, as well as enjoying the beauties of nature. By contrast her life in Frankfurt was dependent on  petty rules imposed for no other reason than to make her conform to Frau Rottenmayer's will. She seldom experienced the beauties of nature; the view from her window was dominated by harsh, imposing looking buildings.Thus it was hardly surprising that she should fall into a depression.
 
Whittaker emphasized the story's Christian message, as Heidi devoted herself to caring for others without expecting anything in return. Despite her tender years, she understood the importance of brightening up Clara's life by bringing little presents such as a pet cat. Heidi's example affected other people - notably her grandfather who gradually experienced a transformation from old curmudgeon into a delightful old man revelling in other people's company. His only regret (as he admitted at the end) was that his decision to withdraw from human contact caused untold suffering to other people - even Heidi. However her childish example had helped him acknowledge the error of his ways.