Saturday, 11 February 2012

Neverwhere


Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman, is one of my favourite books, and was recently performed at the Progress Theatre in Reading. In the last fifteen years, I've probably driven past the theatre 400 times (actual maths gave me that number) and I'd never paid it any attention whatsoever. So, the combination of that and the fact that somebody was daring to adapt one of my favourite books...well, let's just say, I didn't have high expectations.

But I was wrong. It was brilliant. For those of you who aren't familiar with the book (buy it immediately) or the television series which actually came first, Neverwhere is about Richard Mayhew, a man from our world who helps a young woman from London Below, and suddenly finds himself falling through the cracks. As he finds out more about the mysterious and, at times, terrifying London Below, his life in London Above starts being erased. Suddenly, Richard has nothing and is forced to go deeper into London Below than most ever do, desperate to find a way home again.

It didn't occur to me how difficult it would be to put the novel onto the stage until I was reading the programme before it started. No offence to Mr Gaiman, but it's all over the place. London Above, London Below, Richard's flat, Richard's office, the street, Harrod's, the rooftops, HMS Belfast...the list goes on and on. Faced with such a project, I probably would have thought something along the lines of 'Sod it, we'll do something else instead,' but the company rose to the challenge and, by stripping the stage down to bare essentials, managed to convey so many settings so easily.

And then the acting. If I'm honest, I was expecting Am Dram and all the negative connotations that it suggests. Again, I was greatly surprised. Croup and Vandemar were particularly good, as well as the Marquis de Carabas, even if did annoy me how they were pronouncing his name (In my head it's pronounced Ker-ab-us, they said Carra-bass, like sea bass.) Unfortunately, I don't have my programme to hand so I can't name and praise the actors, but they were excellent. The whole company was, but they stood out particularly. Although I have to wonder whether Richard's Scottish accent was genuine, it was that good.

I'm sure I remember reading that another theatre company is putting on an adaptation of Neverwhere (Twitter is a strange beast) but I can't recommend it enough. It's just a shame I didn't see this until the closing night and could have convinced people to go and see it, because it was truly excellent, but if you get a chance to see this, you should definitely take it. And if not, buy the book. In fact, buy the book anyway. I promise you won't regret it.

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