Radio Review: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen + Gracey and Me

“Is this the way to Macclesfield?”

Books like Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Owl Service and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series were huge favourites of mine when I was a wee laddie, so I quite most intrigued to hear that a radio adaptation had been made of the former for Radio 4. Peter Thomson’s dramatization condenses the novel down to a highly atmospheric hour as this children’s fantasy tale winds its way around the ancient mysteries hidden on Alderley Edge. The story starts with Colin and Susan, young siblings who are sent to stay with old family friends in Cheshire whilst their parents are away, and who soon find themselves sucked into a mystical battle between the forces of good and evil who are all hunting for the Weirdstone which has gone missing and which looks strangely like the jewel at the heart of Susan’s favourite bracelet. 

Thomson has the tale narrated by an older version of Colin, a technique I’m not normally a fan of but one which works extremely well here, especially as he is played by Robert Powell whose sonorous tones are soothingly ideal for the purpose. And Jane Morgan’s production is inspired in its use of music (by Mia Soteriou) and special effects (by Wilfredo Acosta) to quickly establish the necessary atmosphere of ancient mystery and peril. She’s cast her play astutely too: Trevor Cooper’s booming guardian Gowther is brilliant, Philip Voss’ voice epitomises weary wisdom and Monica Dolan is a perfect choice for the wicked Selina Place. And with Hugo Docking and Fern Deacon full of youthful energy and wonder as Colin and Susan, it’s a rather wonderful hour of radio entertainment.

And just a brief note about another radio play I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while, which I jusy haven’t gotten round to. Gillian Plowman’s Gracey and Me has really stuck with me as a piece of moving, exciting radio drama which I would highly recommend, it is gone from the iPlayer but is still available on Plowman’s own website. A tale of a British woman, Kate, who returns to the South Africa where she spent her girlhood and the complex relationship that she had with the family servant. Kate’s visit is mainly to make amends for something that occurred in the past but the scars of apartheid are still red raw and the good intentions are waylaid by events in the present which threaten to spiral seriously out of control. Harriet Walter and Jenny Jules are both excellent as the two women with a shared past and Henry Goodman puts on a good if a little disconcerting Afrikaans accent and I found it all really affecting.

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