An act of kindness sees Richard Mayhew catapulted from his ordinary life into a subterranean world under the streets of London. Stopping to help an injured girl on a London street, Richard is thrust from his workaday existence into the strange world of London Below.
Joining the mysterious girl named Door and her companions, the Marquis de Carabas and the bodyguard, Hunter, Richard embarks on an extraordinary quest to escape from the clutches of the fiendish assassins Croup and Vandemar and to discover who ordered them to murder her family. All the while trying to work out how to get back to his old life in London Above.
Dirk Maggs comes through once again with an exquisite and wonderful adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere featuring an all-star cast. This is exactly what I expected from a BBC audio drama and from a Dirk Maggs production.
James McAvoy is pitch-perfect as Richard Mayhew and instills his performance with just the right Everyman quality. And once he gets involved with the denizens of London Below, he pulls off the fish-out-of-water aspect extremely well. I love his reaction when he and de Carabas get up to Old Bailey's place.
Natalie Dormer portrays Door with a silent strength (despite her initial situation) and a kind of understated aristocracy. Right from the get-go, you want to help her. David Harewood as Marquis de Carabas is charming in that roguish Han Solo way, but you can hear a darker side that sits just below the surface. Sophie Okonedo's Hunter exudes a quality that reminds me of Xena--cool under pressure and deadly when necessary.
And Anthony Head as Mr. Croup is deliciously wonderful. I nearly didn't recognize Giles from Buffy in that performance. Nicely dark and guttural, and, I thought, slightly Sydney Greenstreet-esque.
I have to say this tops the other Maggs productions I've heard thus far.
And we're only at the first episode.
Combining a tightly written and well-paced script (a very Maggsian characteristic) with a sound design that wonderfully evoked London Below as one of cavernous spaces, dripping water, and darkened corners, Neverwhere is an audio drama tour-de-force.
Go listen to Episode One now.
And prepare to have your mind blown away.
Episode Two airs at tonight at 6pm UK time on BBC Radio 4 Extra. Episodes Three through Six airs tomorrow through Friday, also at 6pm UK time on BBC Radio 4 Extra. The episodes page can be found here.
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Next time on OtherRealms, we look at another Dirk Maggs production featuring the Dark Knight Detective.