BBC Radio 4, 29 March 2013
Inspired by a true story of the Provisional IRA's attempt to blow up
the Queen as she opened a new oil terminal in the Shetland Islands, Sullom Voe was a tale inspired by different
nationalisms - the passionate anti-Britishness of Martin and Jimmy (Simon Donaldson, Liam Brennan), the strong identity of
the Shetlanders (who considered themselves very different from the mainland Scots), and the British officers charged with
ensuring that the visit passed off without incident. The IRA members tried to enlist the Shetlanders in their cause
but without success; the Shetlanders did not necessarily support the British, but they wanted to ensure peace in their territory.
Gaynor Macfarlane's production reminded us about how beliefs differ: one's person's passionate beliefs are merely an irritant
to others. Perhaps the only thing uniting the Shetlanders and the Irish was the desire for money.
Sullom Voe also looked at the relationship between the political and the
personal. While the IRA members tried to maintain a personal life, both back home and in Shetland, they found that political
affairs kept intervening; if they failed to carry out their appointed tasks, they faced brutal reprisals. The Shetlanders
seemed less politically engaged; but this proved to be a facade. In their own quiet way, they were as concerned to maintain
their own politics, and resist imposition by colonizing forces - personified not just by the British, but the IRA members
In the end carnage was averted; the official reason given was due to the vagaries
of the post, but the drama suggested otherwise. A thoughtful piece which in spite of its fictitious nature focused on
the national tensions prevailing in Britain both in the early 1980s and today.