Sunday, April 30, 2017

Quarter 1 Review - 4/9

008 Horror – Old

Plenty of good material in this category (as per usual).  

I was majorly creeped out early in January by Weird Tales:  Night Terrors by Lizzie Nunnery, originally from 2011. Katie Angelou acted her little heart out here in a very unsettling play.  Laura (Georgia Groom) and Vicky (Angelou) are two girls whose father has died.  Their mother (Sally Orrock) has raised them for the past few years, and Vicky is under a lot of pressure as she was moved up a year because of her strong maths talents.  Like Herbie Stemple in Quiz Show, Vicky may not be a complete genius—Laura, ever jealous and spiteful, says she knows that her sister got the answers at least once.  However, Vicky’s migraines and sleepwalking are real, and seem to be related to the ghost of her dad (Eddie Marsan), whom only she can see, who eventually puts her in hospital.  Angelou’s tears and sobs were almost unbearable, especially as the play escalated and no one believed Vicky, not even her previously sympathetic mother.  I was disturbed when I realized the violent father was played by Marsan, whom I have always enjoyed in semi-comic roles. The play was directed by Helen Perry.

Even freakier was Spine Chillers:  Figures from 1984 by Colin Haydn Evans.  It was beautifully written; you seldom come across such natural-sounding, exquisite dialogue.  It was also incredibly well-structured.  Anna Massey was fantastic as Anne, a wife and mother who is locked into a hateful marriage with her odious Canadian husband.  She has had a recurring dream ever since her father was killed in a pony and trap accident about a certain house with a certain room.  She finds the house and buys it after making the estate agent admit that it’s haunted—only by sounds coming from a certain locked room.  Incredibly creepy and spoiled only by the grown-up actress trying to play the daughter Becky, the odd, unexplained resolution reminded me of Dark Fantasy or “The House in Cypress Canyon,” and the claustrophobic tone reminded me of Dark.  It co-starred Blain Fairman, Jill Lidstone, and Jon Strickland, and was directed by Ian Cotterell.  Brrrr!

However, both of these dramas are outdone by The Events at Black Tor—I feel very privileged at having had the opportunity to listen to this serial from 1968 (!!), written by Roy Clarke and directed by . . . Alan Ayckbourn!!  This thriller was incredible and stood the test of time.  I’m not really one for the “Black Magic” storylines of Doctor Who or anything else.  However, I really liked the characters, the immersive and cinematic setting, the clever writing, and the real sense of menace conveyed in this story.  PC Amos James “Jamie” (Brian Peck) and his wife Pam (Juliet Cooke) are stationed in deepest darkest north Yorkshire (and sound a lot like Ben and Polly from Doctor Who!).  They are a great team, and it would have been nice for Pam to have been more involved throughout the story; in the first episode, they walked to an old cottage in the dark, and while Pam managed to worry about tearing her nylons (why would you go hiking in nylons?), she remained stoic throughout the rest of the strange happenings.  Jamie was alerted to strange-goings on first by reopened cut-and-dried murder cases of local poachers, then by the striking appearance of Father Probert, a local Catholic priest (“about nine foot tall”) voiced by the suitably baritone Bob Grant (and sounding rather like the Second Doctor from time to time).  From this wonderful opening, we learned that the village was home to a Satanist cult who was getting ready to sacrifice a victim in a midsummer black Sabbath.  This is normally rather boring to me, but the steady pace of the story and other well-drawn characters (Brian’s clever sergeant for one) made this a cut above.  There were some good cliffhangers, and atmosphere was maintained through good soundscapes of cawing birds and darkness you could almost hear.  Finally, I should most certainly mention the theme music by Trevor Holdroyd, a combination of the most disturbing sounds the BBC Radiophonic Workshop could come up with and some wonderfully trippy Doors-esque electric organ music.  

Finally, another entry in the Spine Chillers series—“Witch Water Green” by Don Webb, starring Pam Perris, Jenny Lee, Brian Southwood, and Kate Lee (also from 1984).  This story convinces me that long before I first heard him as timid scientist Sokolov in Life and Fate (2011), Nigel Anthony had made a career out of being creepy on radio.  In this story, a woman with a young baby and a constantly traveling husband moves out to a rural area where her house is called Witch Water Green.  She interacts with a possibly hysterical neighbor, the local (female) doctor, and a clergyman (Anthony), but has to decide whom to trust.  To say more would be to spoil it!  It was directed by Tony Cliff.

Quarter 1 Review- 3/9

006 Contemporary Drama – Old 

For something completely different, I Count Myself Among Them by Richard Van Camp and adapted by Reneltta Arluk.  I was greatly interested to hear this Canadian indigenous drama, although I didn’t at first realize it was based on a short story.  Once you hear the heavy and intense narration, though ably acted by Jeff Legacy, you realize that most of the short story has been included word-for-word in the monologue narration by the main character, who has found Native religion in prison and is trying to benefit his community (though he still deals with the drug community and serves as a heavy for intimidating rival drugs gangs).  The long opening scene in a Chinese man’s rural cafĂ© is intense and suspenseful; the actors chosen have excellent, distinctive voices.  The ending is very phantasmagoric, and I feel like less narration, more sounds would have benefited the drama here—as well as throughout the play generally.  Still, I think it’s an ambitious production, and I’d love to hear more in this vein.  It also starred Chris Cound, Russell Bull, Leela Gilday, Lucy Ann Yakeleya, William Greenland, K'a Nakehk'o, Lucia Nakehk'o and Maslyn Scott.  It was directed by Reneltta Arluk and produced by Travis Mercredi and Reneltta Arkluk. 

Quarter 1 Review 2/9

004 Historical Comedy – Old 

I’m glad I heard The Demon Cakestand of Beastley Chase (originally from 1984) after I’d discovered MR James and the Jamesian ghost narrative, as it makes it a lot funnier that way.  Written by “MR James Hendry” and “Edgar Ian Brown,” it is a delightful send up of James’ Christmas ghost stories.  It stars Stephen Fry as Melbourne, a lord with a penchant for sweet stuff who find an antiquarian woodcut which is covered in jam which leads him to a vicar who mimics all kinds of sounds and Lord Beastley who owns a medieval book about cakestands.  All three of them enter a sinister tomb in the shape of a meringue and encounter Felkoff, a demon who sandwiches the Vicar with cream.  The other two eventually meet a similar fate.  This was made hilarious by a raspberry sound every time the word “cakestand” was said.  I trust that, wherever he is, James took it with a good grace.  It also starred Royce Mills, Sheila Stiefield, Michael Ripper, and Nick Revell.