Friday, October 01, 2010

Find and Replace

Katy Manning is brilliant. Really, that should be a required t-shirt slogan for every single Doctor Who fan. Not content with playing that emblem of early seventies Britain, Jo Grant, she also had a pivotal role in creating the audio version of the wonderful Iris Wildthyme.

As she says in the short interview which follows on from the action in Paul Magrs' fantastic new Companion Chronicle, Find and Replace, when first playing Iris Peter Davison, playing the Doctor, asked in horror of her accent 'Are you really intending to play it like that?' and thank God she said yes, or we'd have missed out on so much. Without that broad Mancunian accent perhaps the character would have remained trapped in prose but with it she flew until that voice is now the one that I hear when reading Iris' adventures, a the defining characteristic of Miss Wildthyme.

Which means that the combination of Katy playing Iris, Jo and the Third Doctor in Find and Replace is a dream come true for someone like me who adores all three and views the seventies as the high-spot of British television. Throw in the best writer of modern Doctor Who penning the script and, frankly, I'm in genre heaven.

Make no doubt about it, Find and Replace is the best single Big Finish release bar none since Magrs' earlier Ringpullworld and demonstrates that, when the company uses the very best talent available, it's capable of creating stories on a par with any genre work in any medium anywhere.

The acting is, of course, superb. Katy is astonishing, at times switching smoothly from Jo's winsome little girl voice, to Iris' barking Lancashire to Pertwee's patrician tones in the space of a few seconds. That Alex Lowe as the novelisor Huxley is in no way embarrassed by such a tour de force performance is indicative of his quality too, but both actors are helped immeasurably by the quality of Magrs' script, which flows and eddies as smoothly as a pint of Guinness, sliding from nostalgic reverie as Jo imagines the Doctor moving about in his lab directly above her, to unexpected confrontation as...well, you better listen to it yourself really :)

There's a very genuine sense of sheer pleasure in every aspect of Find and Replace, a very real feeling that everyone involved is having a whale of a time, best summed up by the triumphant whoop of 'Let's go back to the Seventies!' which ends part one. Credit for some of this must presumably go to director Lisa Bowerman, who contrives to keep everything moving along and to avoid the temptation to clutter the sound-scape with intrusive background bells and whistles (unlike some of the other BF directors).

Hugely recommended.

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