Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Chronicles of Narnia... Radio Series

I am a big fan of C.S. Lewis's Narnia stories. I had some of them read to me at an early age, had read all of them myself by the age of 10, and have re-read them since then more times than any other series of books.

I also have all seven of them in 'talking book' form - the classic 1980s versions read by Michael Hordern (with appropriate music on the harp and flute composed and played by Marisa Robles).

I also have the 1990s BBC radio adaptations of all seven books. Which I like and am annoyed by in equal measure. (Whoever cast Sylvester McCoy as Reepicheep should be shot!)

So I have been diligently following the complete run of the new radio adaptations, made by 'Focus on the Family' and endorsed & introduced by Douglas Gresham, as broadcast on BBC 7 across the Christmas holidays. I have recorded all of the episodes and have listened to all of them but one (which I will listen to on the train later).

I like the new dramatisations in all regards except one. In general the adaptations are very faithful to the stories and contain more of each of the stories than the previous abbreviated talking books and the 1990s radio series. The later stories (Dawn Treader, Silver Chair, Last Battle) are significantly longer and more detailed than either of the earlier audio versions that I have, this is very good. Also, in general, the acting is fine and the casting is appropriate (Lucy is an understandable trade-off between age and acting ability - she is young and so she seems like she is reading her lines rather than acting at times, but I can't really complain on this one).

But I can complain about David Suchet's performance as Aslan. It is the thing that lets most of the stories down. He clearly thinks that, for dramatic effect, Aslan should speak as deeply and s--l--o--w--l--y as possible. Deep is not a problem, but even at times when the action demands that Aslan should be swift he does this unbearably slow voice. And he gets the emphasis all wrong. Or rather he emphasises almost every word so that the performance actually becomes pretty flat. This is not generally a problem in The Magician's Nephew, The Horse and His Boy, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader or The Silver Chair, as Aslan doesn't say much in these stories, but parts of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian and The Last Battle are pretty unbearable.

Liam Neeson in the movie version got it right. David Suchet got it all wrong. Sigh.

But except that, the new radio versions are great.

And the movie of Prince Caspian is in the works too...

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