The Hedge by Anita Sullivan

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 27 April 2012
Marion (Fiona Shaw) and Richard (Peter Ellis) live an apparently idyllic life in retirement, shielded from the world outside by an elaborately manicured hedge. Their daughter Sophie (Tanya Franks) comes to visit, and has a blazing row with her father; they are as stubborn as one another, and Marion plays the role of peacemaker. Suddenly a mysterious hand appears through the hedge, and the family's secure life begins to fall apart ...
The origins of the family's difficulties lie in the Red Lion Square riot of 1974, when the National Front marched through London, leading to a meeting in Conway Hall. There they were met by members of the London Area Council for Liberation, The International Marxist Group plus members of the British Communist Party, who had conducted a counter-demonstration. In the ensuing fracas a student, Kevin Gately, was killed; the first protestor to lose his life in Britain for fifty-five years.
In terms of Sullivan's play, this demonstration emphaized Marion's political commitment, yet at the same time marked the beginning of Richard's personal decline. Until that time he had been an optimistic person, with a desire to help others; after the fracas he became obsessed with protection against potential threats of insurrection. The hedge was a symbol of his apprehensions; it was the only way he could feel secure.
The Hedge was an ingeniously written piece, using sound-effects - the whirr of a helicopter, the scream of someone falling - to emphasize how the three protagonists could never hope to escape the past. Whether the mysterious hand was 'real' or not was not particularly significant; it provided the means by which the protagonists tried to make sense of their past, both individual and collective, and used that experience to determine their future. Their struggles were recounted to us by a narrator (Dorien Thomas).
James Robinson's production proved fascinating listening, showing how the imagination impacted on the outside world and vice versa. The four-strong cast were almost uniformly good in roles which required them to display considerable vocal virtuosity.