AUDIO REVIEW: GOOD OMENS / AUTHOR: NEIL GAIMAN, TERRY PRATCHETT / PUBLISHER: BBC WORLDWIDE / STARRING: MARK HEAP, PETER SERAFINOWICZ, NICOLAS BRIGGS, JOSIE LAWRENCE, MITCH BENN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman have, thus far, only ever collaborated on one novel; the gloriously and extremely well loved Good Omens, a humorous take on the Christian apocalypse which dares to ask the question “What if the Anti-Christ grew up in an idyllic English suburb?” The resultant comedy has influenced the genre for the last 25 years, and though it doesn’t look like we’re getting a movie or TV version of the book any time soon, the BBC have done the next best thing and turned it into an audio drama.
The man responsible for turning the book into a radio play is Dirk Maggs, whose credits include Neverwhere and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Maggs is an old hand at adapting popular works, and the casting has been rather spot on; we have Mark Heap as the over anxious and mildly camp angel Aziraphale, and Peter Serafinowicz as the too-cool-for-his-own-good demon Crowley. Both actors have worked together many times before and they bring an easy charm to the performance. The characters are meant to be old friends, having worked on Earth for thousands of years, and both Serafinowicz and Heap play off each other perfectly.
Mostly, it is Josie Lawrence who steals the show; her role as the profoundly pragmatic witch Agnes Nutter gives her all the best lines and also informs the narrative throughout. The young actors who play the Anti-Christ and friends also put in a very convincing performance. Theirs is the hardest part, having to present humour, horror and naivety in a very short space of time. They do this amazingly well. The only criticism with the casting is the lack of a Christopher Lee as the voice of Death. However, Jim Norton does very well at filling in some very big shoes.
Obviously with an adaptation, some of the scenes have had to be cut or changed. Jokes that directly reference old technologies have had to be chopped or changed, and scenes that were hot issues back in the ‘90s are less relevant now. Maggs has done his best to keep as much in as possible; indeed the 4CD boxed set contains a few extras that you won’t have heard when this show was broadcast on Radio 4.
Dirk Magg’s genius is in maintaining the wit of Pratchett and the strangeness of Gaiman’s work without compromising it on any level. Good Omens is still as strong as it ever has been, and the adaptation works hard to capture as much of the book’s magic as it can. If you’ve read the book before, this is a nice way of reacquainting yourself with an old friend. Those who don’t know Good Omens will be in for a treat with this audio version. Recommended.
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