First stage production of Breathing Country, Autumn 2009. Photographs by Robert Workman.
You can either listen to this audio drama or download it in four episodes.
Episode 1Listen to Episode
After six months hiding from the world, Lizzie, is ready for Life again. Six months ago, following the mysterious death of her mother, she pulled all information off her facebook profile, and ceased all communication. She could not bear the world asking about her. But this morning is different. She switches on her machine and searches for Life. Looking at photographs on the profile of Simon, best friend and nearly-sweetheart, she realises that she wants to Live again. Technophile Simon shares everything on the internet.
Lizzie’s sudden withdrawal from cyberspace left him bereft, and he has been gazing at Lizzie’s profile, waiting for a change. But today something is different – she has sent him a message: Lizzie is ready. Meanwhile, Lizzie’s father, Richard, unable to cope with the bitterness and anger surrounding his wife’s death, has become trapped by grief. Boiling in silence, he is unable to relate to his daughter, and has thrown himself into his work. Richard is Communications Director at the Department of Health, and is trying to launch the NHS Electronic Patient Record – the biggest computer engineering project in the world. In the past, he was famous for knowing how the public want to ‘feel’ about such great endeavours, but since his wife’s death he has lost his gift - a journalist has obtained leaked information suggesting the database is not ready to handle sensitive patient information…
Richard is shocked by Lizzie’s sudden positivity, when she comes to find him at his office, and he wonders what has happened inside her. Pushing Lizzie away, he meets Janet, a gifted but fluster-brained clinical psychiatrist who has been campaigning for the introduction of the database. When Janet tells him about a research study she is conducting, he goes pale…
Episode 2Listen to Episode
Later that evening, Lizzie meets Simon, and he is joyous when she promises to attend a friend’s house-party for her ‘re launch’. But there is an elephant in the room, Simon is hurt by Lizzie’s secrecy about the past six months. In a strange moment of tenderness, Lizzie takes a photograph of them together for him to share on his page. But then Richard arrives back home early. Furious that Lizzie appears to be cultivating a ‘secret life’ of her own when she should be churning with bitter grief, an outburst sends a distraught Lizzie scattering away. On the verge of throwing Simon out, Richard hesitates when Simon gives him a brilliant lead for the database story. Later, Lizzie returns to her profile page, and witnesses a frenzy of comments over the freshly uploaded picture of her with Simon. Unable to cope with this sudden exposure, she suffers from a panic attack.
The night of the party has come and Lizzie faces a struggle between her desire to go to the party and her belief that she will have an attack when she gets there.
Episode 3Listen to Episode
Lizzie and Simon go to the party and it’s is a great success. Lizzie returns home drunk on life. But when she wakes up, Richard is waiting for her. He had been fretting that she had abandoned him. Moreover, a letter from the NHS has arrived for her, and Richard is paranoid that it is about him. But when Lizzie reads the letter, she is shocked. It asks her if she consents to being contacted about taking part in a research study led by Dr Janet Grieg, concerning the mental health of young people. She has been identified because her medical record showed she had reported suffering attacks. As a result of what she regards as an abuse of her privacy, she has a severe attack.
Since the party, Simon has been unable to contact Lizzie, while Richard has concluded that he must do something to avert a disaster with his daughter. Fretful that she may be at risk to herself, Richard suggests to Lizzie that they take a short break to talk about things. But Lizzie responds that she ‘can’t do Mondays’, but won’t say why. When Richard wonders aloud whether Lizzie might be ‘like her mother’,
Richard contacts Simon through Facebook and asks him if he can find out where Lizzie is going. Simon can’t resist such a data search, and the next day follows Lizzie to the hospital
Episode 4Listen to Episode
Simon calls Richard from the hospital. In despair, Richard lashes out at Simon, and orders him to leave Lizzie alone– he doesn’t want his daughter anywhere near a dirty snoop. Inside the hospital, Lizzie is meeting Janet. Having established trust, and privacy – breathing country - Lizzie finally opens up about her mother’s suicide, and begins a healing process. But this involves data entry about Lizzie onto a computer. Janet may well be a gifted clinician, but she does not understand the technology, and is so overworked that she leaves her computer terminal vulnerable to furious, confused snoopers who may be loitering around the hospital, looking for answers.
Later that day, Janet finds that the memory stick is missing from her computer…..