Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tales from the Northside

Tales from the Northside is a three-part drama anthology produced with support from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.  It was the first audio I had knowingly heard come out of Ireland, so I was quite interested to hear it.  My reactions were mixed to the first two plays and I have not yet heard the third.  

The Reading by Helen McNamara was dark and intense.  It was a subject you might see in a stage play, but seldom on TV:  at least in this way, without being jazzed up by sex and scandal.  Maura is Niall’s “common-law” wife, nursing him through the end of a debilitating illness while his children from a previous marriage keep out of the way, at least until his death, when they carve up his property and leave Maura homeless.  This subject is not a new one; Dickens did it in Martin Chuzzlewit.  Nevertheless, the three (female) actors are strong and offer a new voice.  Unfortunately, at over 40 minutes, this play is too long by half.  

Poodles by Denis Byrne is more effective and more varied, but suffers from the same problem:  it’s about 20 minutes too long.  The story is set entirely in a small cafĂ© owned by Marie.  She has a confrontation from two unlikely young people, one a junkie and the other his damaged and abused girlfriend.  Despite a very dark premise, Poodles ends in an upbeat way.  The characters are interesting and well-played, though a general excess of everything—emotion, tongue-tying speeches, repetitive dialogue—hinders Poodles’ effectiveness.  

The Monster Hunters, Heir of the Dog

I was a bit disappointed with episode 2 of The Monster Hunters, Heir of the Dog, partially because my expectations had been raised so high after the debut.  Lorrimer and Roy are back to help a billionaire from the mustard industry rid himself of a marauding werewolf at his English country estate, but can they all really be as dense as they seem?  Yes.  Yes they can.

Tin Can Podcast

A First Time for Everything is a short black comedy scene from the Tin Can Podcast in which Mike Shephard plays Adolf Hitler and Steven Florez plays Anton Drexler.  I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s a great, zippy, brief piece written by Mike Shephard himself.  

Dark Horse is also by Tin Can Podcast and was recorded live.  You don’t get many of those these days!  It’s another short and rather funny look at life inside the Trojan Horse.  It was written by Mark Brown.

The Strange Case of Springheel'd Jack part 1

The Strange Case of Spring Heel’d Jack, Part 1, The Ghost of Clapham Common, was very enjoyable to listen to, and I very much intend to listen to the other parts of the trilogy.  This is a very popular genre on audio at the moment (see my previous reviews), though to be fair, sci fi/horror/weird fiction has always had a place on radio, for many reasons but chiefly the way it can appeal to the imagination directly rather than relying on effects that can sometimes let the story down.  

Aside from a rather confusing prologue, the story gets off to a rollicking start.  Its hero, “Peeler” Jonah Smith (Christopher Finney), reminded me rather of Johnny Depp in such roles as Crane in Sleepy Hollow and Inspector Abberline in From Hell.  This should be taken as a compliment.  The mysterious and atmospheric production has early 19th century Bow Street runner Smith and his colleague investigating curious happenings in Clapham, which is all bound up somehow with young heiress Charlotte Fitzrandolph and the Dickensian dastardly duo of Chough (Jack Bowman) and his rather monosyllabic, Hyde-like associate Durberville.  Anyone even vaguely familiar with pre-vampiric, pre-Ripper Spring Heel’d Jack will be unsurprised when cloven hoofprints are found around the graves in Clapham.

This play is quite well-written by Gareth Parker and Robert Valentine and very well-made by the Wireless Theatre Company.  The moody music and lovingly attentive SFX make it a cut above the rest.

More OTR

My third episode of Frontier Gentleman continued in an enjoyable and amusing vein, though less action-packed than the previous two.  In this one, Kendall wanders into a saloon and immediately makes the acquaintance of good-natured Wall-Eye Smith, a “cowpuncher” who attaches “son of a gun” to everything he says, like a sufferer from Tourettes.  The saloon is called, in Kendall’s words, the “sanguinary” Jug of Blood.  Inside, Kendall drinks some beer (no doubt of very inferior quality to that he might have had in London, though alcohol as an index of class doesn’t function quite the same here!) and unwittingly picks a fight with a young gunslinger.  The gunslinger accidentally shoots himself and gives himself up for dead.  “There ain’t no doctor ‘round here.”  The multi-talented Kendall next attempts a surgery in very primitive conditions.  He has the reluctant help of Wall-Eye and two of the saloon girls, though all they actually do is staunch bleeding and pray.