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"Neverwhere" Radio Drama Review

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – Neil Gaiman’s novel, “Neverwhere” has made the leap from print to radio theater in a fantasy adventure from BBC Radio. The radio play, dramatized by Dirk Maggs, features Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Christopher Lee, Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and many others including Neil Gaiman himself. While the book has been adapted into a variety of other formats, the radio play is the latest.
“Neverwhere” follows the misadventures of Richard Mayhew (James McAvoy), a young Scottish man who discovers a completely different world hidden below London. This street is known as London Below. After his encounter with Door (Natalie Dormer), Richard finds himself practically invisible to those around him. Richard later discovers that he is now one of the people who has “slipped through the cracks,” otherwise known as those who make up the world of London Below. While Door tries to escape from the assassins, Mr. Coup (Anthony Head) and Mr. Vandemar (David Schofield), Richard is swept up into London Below and the dangers that lie hidden beneath the city.
What makes “Neverwhere” truly enchanting is the use of realistic sound effects incorporated into the drama. Aside from the amazing talents of the voice actors, the experience is delivered in a high quality fashion that really encourages the listener’s imagination to run wild. When watching a movie (or in this case the TV mini series), the viewer is limited to what the directors are able to produce on the screen. However, in the radio drama, the slightest sound allows the imagination to come up with whatever the listener can put the sound to.

The cast of the Neverwhere radio play. Image taken from: i.telegraph.co.uk.
The cast of the Neverwhere radio play. Image taken from: i.telegraph.co.uk.

What is especially likable about the drama is the manner in which occurring events are relayed to the listener, without it being cheesy or overtly obvious. For example, when Richard and Door enter the angel Islington’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) place, Richard asks Door how is it the candles are lighting themselves down the hallway. Many other instances of this occur throughout the drama that help aid the listener in the place or setting, and the actual events taking place. The actors do an incredible job of bringing their characters to life. Even though the audience cannot visibly see what is happening, we can still get a complete picture of who these people are. From the mannerisms and speech patterns, the listener can successfully construct an accurate picture in their head of the characters.
The radio play is very different from an audio book. While the majority of the episodes are almost word for word from the novel, the book is not merely being read to the audience. Instead, listeners hear a story unfold through audio effects rather than visual. Radio drama shows its true power in the form of “Neverwhere,” as the words of the novel come to life in a dramatic enactment of the story. Some details lost upon a first read became vividly existent after hearing the radio version.
The broadcast features six episodes, each approximately 30 minutes in length with the exception of the first one being a one-hour special. The audio files are for sale from either BBC radio or the iTunes store. Fans will greatly enjoy the adaptation of Gaiman’s novel. The voice talents of the star studded cast add to the fantasy experience and overall construct the fantastically mesmerizing world of “Neverwhere.”

Video created by Will Brucella.