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Audio Drama Review
One wouldn’t normally expect to find elephants, gorillas and rhinoceroses roaming free in Suffolk in the year 1911. One wouldn’t normally expect to find an extra-dimensional police box at the same time/space location either. The Doctor and Nyssa exit said box, only to find themselves pursued by a hungry lioness – for they have landed in the private hunting grounds of the famous explorer Nathaniel Whitlock, who’s brought together a motley group of acquaintances for a weekend’s shooting. One of Whitlock’s guests isn’t all they seem, however. One of them wants the secrets of the Moonflesh, the mystic mineral looked after by Whitlock’s retainer, a Native American known as Silver Crow. The Moonflesh is reputed to have the power to call down spirits from another realm – and soon, the hunters will become the hunted...
From Indian mythology to, um, Indian mythology! Last month we had the story of Prince Salim and Anarkali in Scavenger, this month we have the legend of Blood Clot Man (also known as Rabbit Boy), a concept that has appeared in various forms in the oral traditions of North American Indian tribes.
The story is told to the Doctor (Peter Davison) by Silver Crow (John Banks), one of numerous larger-than-life characters populating a narrative that might at first appear to be nothing more than a collation of stereotypes and clichés. We have domineering imperialists in the form of Nathaniel Whitlock (Tim Bentinck) and Edwin Tremayne (Hugh Fraser), their respective subdued offspring Phoebe (Rosanna Miles) and Hector (Geoffrey Breton), we have characters being possessed (as often seems to happen in Nyssa stories), and a trip to a spiritual plane (see also Kinda and Snakedance). Certain aspects of this audio play by Mark Morris remind me of Black Orchid, what with all the early 20th-century toffs and the Indian manservant. However, this is a much more action-packed and sci-fi-oriented tale.
What really lifts this production is the performances. As director Ken Bentley points out during the CD extras at the end of Disc 2, the characters of Nathaniel Whitlock and Edwin Tremayne could have come across as being similar, were it not for the work of Tim Bentinck and Hugh Fraser. Bentinck brings out Whitlock’s exuberant qualities, sounding at times not unlike a combination of Timothy West and Brian Blessed. Meanwhile, Fraser imbues Tremayne with quieter, more sinister traits. In fact, the fruity Francesca Hunt as the “jolly hockey sticks” Hannah Bartholomew sounds more like Whitlock than Tremayne does! Special mention must be made of John Banks, who is utterly convincing as a Sioux Indian.
All in all, I’d say this blighter is well worth tracking down, what?
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