Country Life/ Whoopi Goldberg's Country Life by Shelagh Delaney

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BBC Radio 4, 17-18 June 2010
This double-bill of plays focused on a dysfunctional family over a gap of seven years, from the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 till 2008. Country Life shows Rose (Barbara Marten) living on a small Yorkshire farm with her nephew Boris (Thomas Sangster), a talented pianist with no idea of what to do with his talents. He also has to put up with his father Eddie (Nicholas Sidi), a British actor who has 'made it big' in Hollywood, but has little or no idea of responsibility. Eddie turns up unannounced at the farm with dreams of taking Boris back to his home in California, without realizing that most of the media from both sides of the Atlantic are pursuing him. With hours of his arrival, Rose's farm is beseiged by over-inquistive members of the press. Eddie leaves as furtively as he arrived without Boris; meanwhile Rose has to cope with the impending slaughter of her few animals by the army on the grounds of preventing the further spread of foot-and-mouth disease.
The play is about the shattering of illusions - for example, Rose's dream of owning a smallholding, away from the pressures of home and family, or Eddie's dream of taking Boris away with him. Boris is caught in the middle, unable to create illusions of his own yet also unsure of what to do next. He becomes a pawn - a means by which Eddie (and, to a lesser extent, Rose) try to fulfil their dreams. Delaney's bleak play (first broadcast in 2006) was directed by Polly Thomas.
In the sequel, Whoopi Goldberg's Country Life, it is Rose's embattled ex-sister-in-law Polly (Nicola Gardner) - Boris' mother - who nurses her illusions of being a good parent, and of making herself up to look like Whoopi Goldberg. Both illusions are shattered; Polly not only admits her failings in looking after Boris, but doubts whether she could manage any better now that he has grown up. The fantasy of being Whoopi Goldberg is simply an evasion; a way in which Polly can avoid facing the truth about herself and her life. However Delaney shows that this is not all of her own making; as an African-Caribbean woman once married to Eddie, she had to contend with all the prejudices arising from a mixed marriage. Likewise Boris (Tachia Newall); although living in California with Eddie now, he still feels alienated from society, whether in Great Britain or the United States. He eventually goes missing, and turns up at Rose's house. Although he forges a fragile peace with his mother, he is ultimately doomed; he drowns trying to save a young child from the sea. Their illusions shattered once more, Rose and Polly are left with only one another for consolation. Another play about life's misfits, Whoopi Goldberg's Country Life showed that the only way for people to survive in life was to try and understand each other, even if that meant sacrificing their illusions. The director once again was Polly Thomas.

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