Tuesday 26 November 2013, 12:04
Well here is a Christmas treat - albeit quite a dark one – instead of the 12 days of Christmas, Radio 4 are doing the six nights of ‘Neverwhere’, which was a hit for BBC Radio 4 Extra & BBC Radio 4 the earlier this year. Originally broadcast across the two networks, this will be the first time that every episode of the hugely popular series by Neil Gaiman will be on BBC Radio 4.
The six-part adaptation starts on Radio 4 with a 60-minute episode at 11pm on Christmas Day - Wednesday 25 December - and continues with five 30-minute instalments on consecutive nights at 11:30pm, Thursday 26 to Monday 30.
I knew we had commissioned something special when I visited the readthrough – Dirk Maggs (director) and Heather Larmour (producer) were presiding over a gathering of actors which had more star names than a Hollywood red carpet on Oscar Night – at one end of an enormously long table sat Star Trek’s Khan, Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays The Angel Islington, at the other end was Lord of the Rings’ Saruman, Christopher Lee, who at 90 was making his radio drama debut playing the The Earl of Earl’s Court and sandwiched in between were X Men’s James McAvoy, playing our hero Richard Mayhew; Homeland’s resident baddie David Harewood (Marquis de Carabas), Game of Thrones’ not to be wholly trusted Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer plays Door), the even less to be trusted Maggie in BBC1’s current hit The Escape Artist, Sophie Okonedo (Hunter), Buffy’s Watcher Rupert Giles, Anthony Head (Croup), as well as Johnny Vegas, Bernard Cribbins... even author Neil Gaiman was playing a part.
And we weren’t disappointed: BBC Radio 4 & 4 Extra’s Neverwhere is clever, witty and a feast for the imagination, not to mention a really gripping listen, and even if you heard it on its first outing (which I did) it is worth hearing again from start to finish (which I will), and it’s so delightfully, playfully disturbing about London Underground I have given up travelling by tube, just in case I ever have to get out at the treacherous Knightsbridge (well OK, so I admit I have moved house). And audiences seemed to feel the same, with more people catching ‘Neverwhere’ on iPlayer than any other show that month and more than 1.5million visits to the Neverwhere site (which is full of treats and well worth a visit). Enjoy!
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