Thu
Mar 28 2013 5:00pm
Learn to Love Radio Plays By Listening to Neverwhere

In the U.S., radio plays do not have the popularity they once might have enjoyed years ago, but in the U.K. they are an enterprise that continues to flourish. Big Finish has given the many Doctors of Doctor Who new life with their audio dramas, and there are many more to chose from. But lately, good fans had been waiting excitedly for the radio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. And with a cast counting James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Natalie Dormer, David Harewood, and Christopher Lee among its number, it wasn’t hard to figure why.

The drama is currently available to listen to for free via BBC iPlayer, with the first episode available for download. If you’ve got a chance, I highly recommend giving a listen before it is pulled down. (It’s bound to be up for sale before long, so don’t worry if you miss out this time around.)

The casting of this particular venture is absolutely superb, though no one likely needed to be told that. But its the production value of the play all around that makes it such an impressive feat. Often, listening to audio dramas can feel tedious in places—it lacks motion, the sounds effects are cartoonish, there’s too much exposition needed, the lines feel forced because they have to paint a picture of what the listener cannot see. Neverwhere has managed to avoid these pitfalls with sharp editing, engaging background audio, and wonderfully unique performers who bring distinct qualities to each role; you’ll recognize Anthony Head as Mr Croup, and Doctor Who alums Bernard Cribbins and Sophie Okonedo as Old Bailey and Hunter.

Fans of the book are sure to be delighted at what a faithful translation they have managed in this production, and the and novel-like pacing of the adventure that allows it to unfurl in a particuarly satisfying way. Fans of Neil Gaiman will be additionally pleased to pick out his tenor in a few bit roles. (They are, if you must know, all hilarious.) But when all is said and done, what makes the drama so much more interesting to listen to is the chance to experience a different art form, one that most have considered dead since television became such a popular mode of entertainment. Give it a try on some good speakers, relax, and enjoy.

And when you form an audio drama addiction, don’t blame me....


Emily Asher-Perrin is Tor.com’s Editorial Assistant.

10 comments
RobertX
1. RobertX
I listened to it over the weekend. It was wonderful.
Rowan Shepard
2. Rowanmdm3
I started listening to it while doing some tedious formatting at work, which I then had to find more of to do so I could finish listening while at work! I don't generally listen to podcasts or audiobooks, so I wasn't prepared for how much I got sucked in. It's been a couple years since I read Neverwhere, but this was so nicely done. The sound effects and exposition within the dialogue were incredibly well done, and the voice actors were as good as you would expect from the actors recruited. It is definitely worth your time to listen to.
RobertX
3. Renard
Hopefully AudioGo, the audio division of BBC, will be able to untangle the rights issues with this so they can release it to the public to purchase.
Cheryl Sanders
4. RestlessSpirit
I thoroughly enjoyed it! On a couple of occasions, listening with eyes closed, I was so drawn into the story visually that I would open my eyes wanting & expecting to see the action in front of me on a screen.
RobertX
5. Tehanu
There's an organization called L.A. Theatre Works (
http://www.latw.org/) that has been doing radio plays here in Los Angeles for the last 20-odd years. You can attend the recording and sit five feet away from Ed Asner or Annette Bening or practically any other actor you can name, or if you're not in So. Calif., you can get the plays on CD/DVD -- and they do everything, classics, musicals, new works, you name it.
And I should also give a shout-out to the Firesign Theatre who have been doing mindblowing audio works since the 1960s....
RobertX
6. Renard
I recommend these sources for full cast performances of genre works:

bigfinish.com
graphicaudio.net

Both use superb casting, cool music, and superb sound effects.
Alan Brown
7. AlanBrown
I love audio dramas. Only this year did I realize that all the Doctor Who dramas exist, and I look forward to listening to them!
And this one sounds great. All they had to do was say "Gaiman," and I would have been on board. But oh, what a marvelous cast as well...
A.J. Bobo
8. Daedylus
I'm a big fan of audio books, but I'd never really listened to a radio play before this. I spent all my time in my car this week listening to this, instead of the normal podcasts I follow. I regret nothing. This is a wonderful adaptation of my favorite Neil Gaiman book.

A word of advice, though: if you don't already know what the actors look like, don't look them up. Creating your own version of their faces to go with their voices is better.
RobertX
9. Mike Avery
I'm really looking forward to hearing this.

If you are a fan of audio dramas, go visit http://www.zbs.org Their stores and production values are wonderful.
Philip Pauli
10. Sarastro
I just got finished with the radio play and I cannot state how much i enjoyed it.

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