The Embrace by Linda Marshall Griffiths

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The Embrace by Linda Marshall Griffiths. Dir. Nadia Molinari. Perf. Lyndsey Marshal, William Ash, Blake Ritson. BBC Radio 4, 16-20 February 2015. BBCiPlayer to 21 March 2015.

Years ago I remember being transfixed by an ITV drama written by Andrea Newman, "A Bouquet of Barbed Wire." A family saga starring Frank Finlay, Deborah Grant and James Aubrey, it was a complicated piece spread over several weeks involving various relationships, and described by reviewers at the time as "steamy."

I always wondered what that adjective meant. Did a steamy drama have to include sex scenes, or was it rather preoccupied with relationships that perhaps became too intense for their own good? After listening to Linda Marshall Griffiths's "15 Minute Drama", perhaps I am in a better position to understand its true significance.

Iona (Lyndsey Marshal) returns to an otherwise tranquil community, and her very presence stirs up old passions and jealousies. Charlie (William Ash) is obviously still in love with her, while Grace (Olivia Hallinan) and Dan (Blake Ritson) are affected in different ways by her. The drama unfolds in a series of one and two-person exchanges, interspersed with soliloquies delivered direct to listeners by Iona as well as others. We understand from this technique that there are always two, if not three sides to every story; no one is particularly good or evil in love, and their motives are often viewed in different ways. It is up to us to listen to the characters and make up our minds.

The embrace of the title refers to an image, a picture frozen in time that either symbolizes what might have been or what will be in terms of love. It can never describe the present, which perhaps helps to explain why so many of the characters are so deeply affected by it. Images are deliberately constructed by their authors; they present a selective version of the truth, and it is this knowledge that produces such extreme emotional reactions.

Nadia Molnari's production is not about much, in terms of plot-development, but rather concentrates on the characters' shifting reactions to one another. There is a palpable contrast between their public utterances and private thoughts; this is what transforms "The Embrace" into such a steamy drama. We might understand the action in terms of a boiling kettle: the characters spend so much time trying to suppress their feelings that they become steamed up. The only way they can release such pressure is to speak the truth, even if that truth proves unpalatable. This technique is what renders "The Embrace" so compelling; we keep wondering when that moment of release will occur, and when it does, we are often surprised by its consequences.