Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer, adapted by Eileen Horne

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 8 March 2012
Based on a best-selling novel by an Austrian novelist, which has sold two million copies in Germany, and has been bought by thirty-five publishers around the world, Love Virtually tells of an online relationship between Emmi Rothner (Emilia Fox) and Leo Leike (David Tennant). It begins innocently enough, with Emmi accidentally sending an email to the wrong inbox about cancelling a subscription to a journal. However the two discover that they have something in common - a fondness for communicating virtually rather than face-to-face.
Love Virtually is situated squarely within the tradition of the epistolary novel: Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses is perhaps one of the best-known examples. However Eileen Horne's adaptation used the form to explore the relationship between online communication and the construction of identity. Emmy and Leo never actually meet; their perceptions of one another rely to a large extent on their imaginations. Leo thinks that Emmi is of a certain age, with a specific shoe-size, while Emmi constructs Leo as a literary-professorial type. When they do arrange to meet in a cafe one Sunday afternoon, they fail to recognize one another.
This kind of relationship is fraught with paradoxes: it allows for a degree of intimacy which might not exist elsewhere: Emmy freely admits that she feels closer to Leo than to her husband Bernard (Paul Jesson), who happens to be fourteen years older than her. At the same time Leo can never admit to Emmi that he has discovered something about her life with Bernard. The two lovers repeatedly protest their sincerity to one another, yet worry at the same time about causing offence.
The plot of the play is a familiar one - it has strong echoes of Brief Encounter (even down to the elegaic piano music playing in the background). But it nonetheless holds the attention throughout, as a result of the two wonderful central performances. I congraulate both David Tennant and Emilia Fox on their vocal efforts. The producer was Clive Brill.