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Sunday 18 February 2024

The Dark is Rising (radio play)

Wyrd Britain reviews the Radio 4 adaptation of 'The Dark is Rising' by Susan Cooper.
Published 8 years after it's predecessor, 'The Dark is Rising', returned Susan Cooper to her Arthurian world but relocated the action from Cornwall to the Thames Valley.  

The story of Will Stanton, last of 'The Old Ones', is another episodic quest as the newly minted magician comes into his power by locating lost artifacts.  What elevates this beyond that first book however is Cooper's commitment to developing a coherent, mythic storyworld that is interwoven with icons of folkloric Britain, something she would continue to elaborate on across the rest of the series.  

This excellent adaptation was made for Radio 4 in 1997 and unfortunately was the last one they made which was a real shame as it's from the next book, 'Greenwitch', that entwines the characters from the first two books that the series truly shines but don't let that stop you listening as this is fabulous.  

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Sunday 11 February 2024

Over Sea and Under Stone (radio play)

Susan Cooper published 'Over Sea and Under Stone', the first in what would become known as 'The Dark is Rising Sequence' through Jonathan Cape in 1965.  It's the story of the Drew children, Simon, Jane and Barney, visiting with their great uncle Merriman Lyon in the (fictional) Conish town of Trewissick where, following their discovery of an old map, they become involved in a hunt for the Holy Grail. 

I first read Cooper's series as an adult and shorn of the wonder of a child I've long been of the opinion that this first book is definitely the weakest of the five, far too firmly entrenched in the Enid Blyton tradition of children's books whereas the others increasingly embrace a more complex Alan Garner-esque mythic storyworld and are all the better for it.  This adaptation made for Radio 4 and broadcast in 1995 is the first time I've revisited it since and I enjoyed it far more in this format.  An entirely sympathetic dramatisation with a strong cast it works well in this format with the tension kept at a peak as the three kids race around the village.

Unfortunately only the first two books of the sequence were dramatised (I'll return to the second soon) which is a real shame as the others - particularly books 3, 4 & 5 -  really are quite wonderful and I'd have loved to hear what they would have done with them.


Sunday 4 February 2024

Ancient Sorceries

Wyrd Britain presents 'Ancient Sorceries' by Algernon Blackwood read by Philip Madoc.
Algernon Blackwood's 'Ancient Sorceries' was first published in 'John Silence' the 1908 collection of five stories featuring Blackwood's titular occult detective.  The story revolves around the tale of meek and mousey Arthur Vezin who after impetuously disembarking from a train somewhere in France finds himself curiously disinclined to leave the sleepy little village of surreptitiously watchful people.  With Silence sidelined for the majority of the story we get is a fabulous, slowly unfolding story of a man entangled in history.

This adaptation was made for the BBC in 2005 and is, for the most part, beautifully read by Philip Madoc although his French accent has a distinct whiff of 'Allo 'Allo about it.


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If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Thursday 1 February 2024

The Birds (radio play)

Wyrd Britain reviews the BBC adaptation of 'The Birds' by Daphne du Maurier.
Although published in 1952 it was the Hitchcock movie adaptation eleven years later that thrust Daphne du Maurier's short story of a world held hostage by angry avians, 'The Birds', firmly into the wider public consciousness and gave every sighting of a flock a degree of menace.  

Unlike the movie du Maurier's original story revolves around the family of a disabled farm labourer, recently returned from the war, and struggling to find work in Cornwall and this adaptation by Melissa Murray for Radio 4 , featuring Neil Dudgeon ('Midsomer Murders') and Nicola Walker ('The Last Train'), keeps that premise whilst making some judicious changes to the narrative, both narrowing it's focus and widening it's scope, but retaining the essential character of the original in a bleakly claustrophobic story.

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If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.