Dreaming of Foxes by Aelish Michael

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Dreaming of Foxes by Aelish Michael (2010). Dir. Joyce Branagh. Perf. Robert Garrett, Ian Blower. Made in Manchester/ Dark Smile Productions. BBC Radio 4 Extra, 14 Feb. 2015. BBCiPlayer to 17 Mar. 2015

Based largely on a true story, Dreaming of Foxes centers on a reunion between poet Ted Hughes (Robert Garrett) and his childhood friend Douglas Greenwood (Ian Blower). They reminisce about old times and part as friends.

In terms of action, not a lot happens in Dreaming of Foxes, but director Joyce Branagh transforms the play (first performed at the Ted Hughes Festival at Mytholmroyd in 2008) into a meditation on childhood and its transience. As Hughes and Greenwood spent time together, they recall the times when they were children, as they roamed the landscape and instinctively understood their closeness to it. This was a profound feeling, one that is largely denied to children during their formative years; but it had different effects on both protagonists. For Hughes, the experience helped develop his imagination to such an extent that he decided to become a full-time poet. For Greenwood, the experience might have been equally profound, but he elected to pursue a more mundane career. As both men looked back on their experiences, they responded to it in different ways: Greenwood's basic disappointment manifested itself in a desire to question Hughes as to whether he had pursued a "proper" job or not, or whether he had simply wasted his time. The question is largely redundant (the writing experience can be considered as much of a job as any other, even if it does not fit into the conventional nine-to-five framework), but nonetheless occupied a lot of Greenwood's time. We felt rather sorry for him; what seemed such a profound experience for him during childhood had largely evaporated over the years.

Recorded on location at Ted Hughes's former home at the Arvon Centre, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire, this was an atmospheric production in which the sounds of the environment (bird-song, the rustle of the trees) helped to situate the action in its rural context, while the echoing sounds of the actors' voices emphasized how close Hughes remained to the landscape in his rural farmhouse throughout his writing life.