Perhaps I should start by mentioning the Big Finish releases from last month that I'm still working my way through and in the case of Sins of The Saviours, the fifth story in the Pathfinder Legends series, Rise of The Runelords, still waiting to receive. I think it fair to say that Nev Fountain's Sixth Doctor adventure, The Widow's Assassin has divided critical opinion and for a number of reasons; those who have heard it appear to either love it or hate it. From a personal point of view, having now listened to the story several times, I think I like it very much.
One of the reasons for listening to the recordings I've been involved with, apart from a general interest in the story, is to assimilate the merits or otherwise of my own performance. I see it as a significant part of my job to understand how whatever medium I happen to be working in actually functions from a technical, as well as an 'artistic' perspective. I'd like to think that experience contributes to greater understanding and the subsequent ability to do a better job.With that in mind, I have to say that I'm quietly pleased with The Widow's Assassin. Of the characters I played, I'm particularly 'relieved' with how Baron Pteratrark has turned out. This is Nev's description of the character, cut and pasted from the script: "BARON PTERATRARK: Feathered aristocrat. Mid-East European accent."
So that was the starting point; the rest of the 'characterisation' was up to me, with of course, the approval of Nev and director Ken Bentley. What 'pleased' me about the final performance was that I thought the character worked in the context of the style of the story and technically, what I could hear on listening to the finished production was very close to what I was trying to achieve in the studio. I apologise if any of this sounds egotistical, I simply mean that in this particular instance, there was technically very little compromise between aspiration and achievement. Hope that makes sense and doesn't sound too self-aggrandising!
The fact that Guard 1 and Guard 2 turned out to be Welsh (!), was entirely down to Andrew Dickens, who mentioned the idea to me very enthusiastically when we met in the green room on the first morning of recording. Nev and Ken were happy to go along with the suggestion, as indeed was I and I think Andrew's idea worked very well. I also enjoyed the Blakes's 7 story, Retribution, written by that very clever fellow, Andrew Smith. Some commentators have generously suggested that the character I played, Ragnus Lang, might be featured in future Blake's 7 adventures; I do hope so, he was great fun to play and I'd love the opportunity to have further outings with him. As I mentioned above, Sins of The Saviours hasn't arrived yet, so I can't comment on it and much as I'm looking forward to listening to Dark Eyes 3, I haven't yet had time to get round to it - the last few months have been very busy!
So what's been going on? Well, lots of time spent in various recording studios, including a number of Big Finish adventures, none of which I can talk about at the moment of course and also quite a bit of time spent recording a couple of audio books. The first book was recorded for the RNIB Talking Books Service and was an unabridged version of Alwyn W. Turner's chronicle of the 1990's, A Classless Society. Last week, I had great fun recording Esther Freud's novel Mr Mac and Me for W.F. Howes Ltd at SNK Studios. Here are some details:
It is 1914, and Thomas Maggs, the son of the local publican, lives with his parents and sister in a village on the Suffolk coast. He is the youngest child, and the only son surviving. Life is quiet - shaped by the seasons, fishing and farming, the summer visitors, and the girls who come down from the Highlands every year to gut and pack the herring.
Then one day a mysterious Scotsman arrives. To Thomas he looks for all the world like a detective, in his black cape and hat of felted wool, and the way he puffs on his pipe as if he's Sherlock Holmes. Mac is what the locals call him when they whisper about him in the inn. And whisper they do, for he sets off on his walks at unlikely hours, and stops to examine the humblest flowers. He is seen on the beach, staring out across the waves as if he's searching for clues. But Mac isn't a detective, he's the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and together with his red-haired artist wife, they soon become a source of fascination and wonder to Thomas.
Yet just as Thomas and Mac's friendship begins to blossom, war with Germany is declared. The summer guests flee and are replaced by regiments of soldiers on their way to Belgium, and as the brutality of war weighs increasingly heavily on this coastal community, they become more suspicious of Mac and his curious behaviour.
In this tender and compelling story of an unlikely friendship, Esther Freud paints a vivid portrait of a home front community during the First World War, and of a man who was one of the most brilliant and misunderstood artists of his generation. It is her most beautiful and masterful work.
Esther came to the studio on Wednesday to say hello and to see how recording was coming along. It was lovely to meet her, although I was naturally concerned that she might not approve of how I was performing her book. Esther and producer Paul Kent went off to listen to samples of the book we'd already recorded and about an hour later, both emerged to the green room and much to my relief, Esther said how much she had enjoyed the story so far and made number of helpful and generous comments which gave Paul and me quite a boost. Unlike Big Finish, publishing companies don't usually provide contributor copies of recordings and, as I enjoyed this story so much, I'll just have to wait until it's released and buy a copy. Then I can start the process of analysing the disparity between aspiration and achievement all over again!
All that has gone, but what is to come?
Well ok, this month's audio releases from Big Finish, in which I have some involvement, include: Doctor Who: Trial of The Valeyard and the epic new Holmes box-set, The Judgement of Sherlock Holmes.
A subscriber bonus download edition of Valeyard was released about this time last year and now the CD version is about to become available. We recorded the story back in May 2013 and I hope its release now will serve as a fitting tribute to the talent of Lynda Bellingham, who, as most people I'm sure will know, sadly passed away in October.
Valeyard was the only time I had the pleasure of working with Lynda and she was so full of enthusiasm and energy. Lynda faced her illness with incredible courage and dignity and I remember our time together very fondly.
I'll post further details of the series at a later date, but in the meantime, it probably goes without saying, that I'm very much looking forward to listening to both forthcoming releases!
As well as having a busy time with Big Finish and the audio-book recordings, I've also been doing the voice over for a corporate documentary film which is unfortunately all a bit secret, so, apart from mentioning that I'm still in the process of recording it, there's absolutely nothing else I can say about it!
What I can happily and fully mention, to round of this fairly epic posting, is that my good friends over at Tarquin Productions, Artistic Director Benji Sperring and for this event, Producer Rachel Illingworth, are about to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for their World Premier on-stage of the musical Shock Treament, written by Jim Sharman and Richard O'Brien.
The production will take place next April at The King's Head Theatre in Islington.
famous THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.
Brad and Janet, the perfect young everyday couple from cult classic THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW are back, but this time they’re not fighting transsexual aliens in a world of B-Movies. We join them as they are sucked into the world of TV Media, where bleach-white teeth and immaculate make-up are the warpaint, the studio audience are the crowds baying for blood, and people will stop at literally nothing to get the ratings through the roof.
Come and join us in Denton’s most break-neck TV studio and watch as two innocent lovebirds are torn apart by the talons of TV executive Farley Flavors, whose new television show Faith Factory will guarantee that at least one person is going to receive the shock of their life. As Doctors-and-Nurses fever takes hold of the studio, will Brad and Janet be able to escape, or will they forever be trapped behind the controlling powers of the exploitative – yet oddly charismatic – brother and sister pairing of TV Doctors Cosmo and Nation McKinley? Make sure that you tune in at the Kings Head Theatre during April to find out…
With music by Richard Hartley and lyrics by Richard O’Brien, SHOCK TREATMENT brings together the creative power of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW and presents a stunning score full of songs that make you want to get up and join in with the action – and in some cases, this might be exactly what happens! Add to that Jim Sharman’s original book, now adapted for the stage by Tom Crowley, and the laughs – and shocks – come thick and fast.
After the sleeper 1981 cult movie, SHOCK TREATMENT is brought to the stage for the very first time by director Benji Sperring and Tarquin Productions, whose recent work includes the world premiere of Ivor Novello’s final musical VALLEY OF SONG (“Ideal” – Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph) and the centenary production of THE IMMORTAL HOUR (“brave and intriguing…tantalising” – Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph).
So, bring your lab coat and stethoscope, check your blood pressure, and prepare to play doctors and nurses as SHOCK TREATMENT takes over the airwaves - and your life!
Yesterday, Benji, Rachel and me got together with our great pal John Silke, to record the Kickstarter campaign film, which was indeed a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon as I tried to give my best 'Charles Gray'. Once John has edited the film, we can do a little more work on the sound design and hopefully get the Kickstarter campaign off to a flying start! Here's a photo, which Rachel took yesterday, of Benji, cameraman John and me - taking it easy in a comfy chair!
Casting of the show has yet to be finalised, but I should mention that tickets are selling very fast and several performances might already be sold out - do get in touch with the box office at The King's Head to avoid disappointment! Click on this link: