“It would be pleasant if time wasn’t always of the essence.”
The plot: The New Regency Theatre is haunted and Jago, Litefoot and Leela witness the spirit of someone in a silver wheelchair floating over the stalls. This is the story of Alice – a young woman who had ‘Swan Lake’ so cruelly taken from her …
Juicy Jagoisms: “This is why female emancipation is such a bad idea.”
Writer: John Dorney
Director: Lisa Bowerman
Music & Sound Design: Howard Carter
Cover Art: Alex Mallinson
Release date: June 2011
Main cast: Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor George Litefoot), Lisa Bowerman (Ellie Higson), Louise Jameson (Leela)
Following a fortuitous chain of events at the end of the last series, Jago became the new owner of the New Regency Theatre – but at present it is ‘dark’, which as Litefoot explains to a puzzled Leela, doesn’t mean there is no lighting but rather that it is currently closed, awaiting the opening of a new show. Leela’s temporal gizmo has taken them there to seal another time break. In parallel we follow the story of three scientists in what is more or less the present day, focusing on Alice. As a child she had dreams of becoming a ballerina but following a car accident which killed both her parents she is now confined to a wheelchair. Like Lewis Carroll’s eponymous heroine, she is looking through portholes into alternate dimensions and these are what have been causing the time disturbances that Leela is picking up in Victorian England.
“That is the most nonsensical thing you have ever said.” – Leela
Like Jonathan Morris’ similarly excellent Theatre of Dreams from the previous series, this is also a highly ‘theatrical’ tale and a very self-consciously so one at that. It is set entirely within Jago’s theatre, but in an unusual change of pace the story takes place during different time periods. The power of dramaturgy and of live performance is the main theme of the play and the eventual resolution relies in part on Jago being able to recite everyone’s favourite lines from Shakespeare to defeat a most unusual creature, one reminiscent of a creation from the recent TV series, though it would spoil the fun to say any more about that. This episode rather surprisingly also sports quite a few thematic and plot similarities with Matthew Sweet’s previous entry, The Man at the End of the Garden, which I reviewed here, and which it would also be unfair to talk about in too much detail – suffice it to say that along with the emphasis on the power exerted by the written word, one of the characters , it eventually transpires, is not entirely behaving as ‘themselves’.
This tale by John Dorney, a rising writer at Big Finish who also wrote the excellent Companion Chronicle Solitaire and the very clever DVD audio commentary ‘Special Features’ story for the The Demons of Red Lodge and Other Stories release, proves to be very clever but also heartfelt in a winning combination. This is also the story in which the mysterious time traveler Mr Payne finally steps out from the shadows, setting up the arc’s climactic confrontation, which I am greatly looking forward to.
Perhaps more than the previous series, this third season seems to be working best when considered as a totality and I greatly look forward to seeing how Andy Lane, as he has done for all previous series, will bring all the threads of the story together. but for the moment I can happily say that along with Matthew sweet’s previous entry, this is a truly excellent play that stands up to repeated performances, as any good show should. Bravo!