The plot thickens. Now I’ve used that cliche twice to start a review. I really need new one liners. Anyway, the second part of Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls has a plot that does thicken.
What I really noticed this time around was the Nineteenth century dialogue. It blended quite well with the attention span of modern audiences. Being a member of the modern audience, by which I mean, I’m not old old enough to remember the golden age of radio. In fact, I heard my first audio drama podcast in 2008. But that’s not why you came to this website. You came to hear me review this wonderful story.
Back to the dialogue, the script had that shakespearean acting vibe. The result of this, however, wasn’t confusion. There was no need for a “No-Fear…” series of books for this four part adventure. I could tell the amount of work that went into each line of dialogue. It got its point across, moved the story forward, and all by using a style of speaking that has been non-existent for centuries. (Not sure if that last sentence I wrote counts?).
The first episode of the four part series, produced by Blackstone Audio. This was made free via the Radio Drama Revival podcast. Technical information aside, I enjoyed this interpretation of the demon barber from fleet street.
This episode is a simple, yet ingenious mystery plot. Its simple in that we know what happened in the first scene. Sweeney Todd is one of my favorite stories so I know the story quite well. After listening to this episode I found out that Sweeney Todd used to be a serialized newspaper story. The mystery that every character but Mrs. Lovitt and Sweeney Todd don’t know is practically common knowledge.
What makes this ingenious is that you spend the majority of the story with characters who don’t know and are curious about what happened to a Mr. ______. So much time is spent that you often forget what really happened.
That, of course, is just my reaction. However, the tension and suspense alone will keep your headphones glued to your ears. It plays the sliding scale between a mystery plot and suspenseful anticipation. Most stories have a mystery plot and a anticipation plot that are separate from one another. In fact it could be argued that those are the two main plot archetypes (anticipation and mystery). This rendition of Sweeney Todd has elements of both and sits somewhere in the middle, making it a great listen for those long car rides.
The content, or at least the execution of the content to the listener, was redundant. The parts that used prose had sound effects that weren’t really needed as the narration was enough. It’s basically showing and telling at the same time and gives it a “why” factor. The story was good though, it was just the mixing that kind of fell apart on me.
I enjoyed the humor of the story, but felt the drama fluctuated to points of extreme suspense and tension to none at all. I wondered if it was a comedy with drama thrown in or a drama with comedy thrown in. Seeing as this is only one episode there are bound to be missing/odd portions in the script that would be explained in future episodes. In terms of characters I enjoyed them all and felt I could relate to a lot them.
The production value was good, better than most online companies. Again I am assuming that the collaboration was done online. The problem I had, and forgive me if I’m using the wrong terminology, was the EQ of the overall mix. It sounded like all the actors came from the same microphone, which is usually good. However the microphone sounded hardly had any breathing room. I’m not sure if it was a stylistic choice, but when you have the illusion that people are in the same room you want it to sound roomy.
As I said in the previous section the actors bounce off eachother’s lines as if they are in the same room. Each performance brought that world to life.
The story this time around is interesting, but at points hard to accept as real. It’s mostly the expositional scenes and the end where this happens. For most fiction the reader, or listener in this case, has the most connection to the protagonist. After the last chapter, I get that vibe that Macallan is that character and if she doesn’t believe then the listener won’t believe either. Add in her thoughts about the brutal murder of her lab partner and it’s even more confusing. In fiction, when exposition is given there is no doubt in the reader/listener’s mind that what is being told is the truth, if done correctly and despite the main character’s doubts. For me, that was not the case. At first I fell in the category of believing, then after the aforementioned corpse scene I was going along with the protagonist’s thoughts. I’m not really sure what the author was going for, but it just left me on the fence as to whether I should believe or not believe.
Other than the big reveals and end of the chapter, the rest of the story was good. One little nitpick I have is that we are introduced to Othello as if we’ve known him already. the first line of one of the prose sections starts with the Othello doing something. My first reaction: Who’s Othello?
Once again writer, Christof Laputka, immersed me in the world of the story. This time the setting shifts to a university where the best and the brightest medical students attend. The prose was awesome as well as the dialogue. The horror vibe came back during the exchange between Macallan and her grandmother. It was both creepy and sad, which is an odd blend of emotions. Other than that scene this was a standard story. I feel that the first chapter was more of a prologue, after listening to this chapter. But it works whatever the scenario.
So I learned that the recording and mixing is all done in one central location, rather than online. Other than that not much changed production wise, still awesome. The lack of sound effects is working for it right now, but sooner or later the prose sections that describe everything may become dull. By everyone’s reaction to this series, that doesn’t seem like it would the case.
Once again great acting by the cast. Sorry that’s all I got. 🙂
The script is unique in that it can either be an audio drama or a podcast audiobook. I haven’t heard of anything that combines the best of both worlds and after listening to this, the bar for future projects like this is up in outer space. I really enjoyed this. Great prose narration and the dialogue was the perfect combination of science and casual talking. I could understand enough of what the actors were talking about to get more enveloped in the story. I couldn’t help but be chilled by the use of sound effects and music choices. Add in the narrator and I got the same sense I get when reading good horror stories. I get that vibe, but it’s not horror. And usually that kind of “it’s horror, but it’s not” kind story doesn’t really appeal to me. Then again I haven’t really seen it done in audio form this successfully. I have heard some very good audio horror stories, but this just blows them out of the water (no pun intended).
I don’t know if the recording is all done at once, but it sounds like actors are in the same room. If they use the traditional e-mail the lines method than the amount of detail and thought put into the dialogue bits was outstanding.
Acting is top notch. Not much to say other than I loved it.