The Man Who Built Tunnels by Natalia Power

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The Man Who Built Tunnels by Natalia Power (2007). Dir. Martin Jenkins. Perf. Alec McCowen, Emma Fielding, Anthony Glennon. BBC Radio 4 Extra, 1 Apr. 2015. BBCiPlayer

This charming tale, set in the mid-nineteenth century, contrasted the world of the Duke of Portland (Alec McCowen), conducting a platonic yet passionate love-affair with Adelaide (Emma Fielding), with the grimy realities of life among the subordinate classes Wheatley (Kim Wall) and Maisie (Ella Smith).

Victorian life in all its squalor was vividly expressed; love-affairs often took second place to the necessities of trying to survive. The class-structure was so rigid that anyone trying to transgress it was automatically a prime target for criticism; and worse. Women inevitably assumed a subordinate role; they were the classic examples of a race to be seen and not heard.

The Duke's world seemed equally sordid; shut up along in a castle that he had remodeled to accommodate endless passages, he seemed a lonely, remote figure, one who had decided to switch off from the realities of daily life and live the life of a hermit. Yet in truth he was blissfully happy, as he received a visitation from Adelaide (Emma Fielding), a once-famous opera singer as lonely and isolated as himself. The two of them immediately hit it off - so much so that their future happiness seemed secure. At the end it seemed that their love was eternal; perhaps Adelaide did not exist all, but represented a figment of the Duke's imagination. It did not really matter; what was important was the fact that true love could be found. It was just a matter of looking carefully for it.