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.

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