Review: Neverwhere / Author: Neil Gaiman / Actors: James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee / Publisher: AudioGo / Release Date: September 5th
Neil Gaiman has been getting everywhere lately. Not only is he on tour but the amount of work with his name on seems to be all over place these days, and a lot of it seems to be only around very briefly. For example, the audio drama version of Neverwhere was available for a very short time on the BBC and most people missed this lavish, star-studded production. Luckily it’s about to be released on CD via AudioGo.
For those of you who don’t know it, Neverwhere is the sort of dark fairytale that Gaiman is famous for. It follows the fate of the slightly hopeless (but well-meaning) Richard Mayhew, a regular guy trying to make a living for himself in London. The poor chap gets drawn into a world of monsters and mystery after he helps a seemingly homeless girl. As a consequence, he loses everything and gets dragged into the weird world of London Below; a fantastic place where the names of Tube Stations describe the strange things that live there. So much so that there is an Earl in Earl’s Court, a brotherhood of dark skinned holy men at Blackfriars and of course, an angel called Islington. Mayhew goes on a quest to get his life back, which is not as easy as it sounds.
Neverwhere started out as BBC TV series in the early Nineties and has the perhaps unique distinction that subsequent adaptations into other media have vastly improved on the contents. The novel, the comic book and now the audio drama version are all much better than the low-budget telly drama that suffered from poor production values and overly earnest performances. It’s safe to say that the audio drama is the best production of this tale so far.
Producer Dirk Maggs knows how to wring the best work from any actor, and given that he has the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Romola Garai, Bernard Cribbins and Christopher Lee to work with, the performances are simply excellent. Gaiman has streamlined the story slightly in key parts, and this delivers a far more telling and listenable story. Production values are very high and of course, the infinite props budget that radio dramas allow for is used to its full effect. The CD is also available with a few extra features, mostly cut scenes and outtakes, which are fun to listen to, though hardly required listening.
Neverwhere is a treat for anyone who has had to “Mind The Gap” and this production really does bring London Below to life.