Sunday, December 18, 2011

BBC Radio's The Nutcracker and The Mouse King

BBC Radio has been widely recognized as one of the best producers of audio dramas. High quality productions with superb acting, sound effects and music.

So, imagine them taking on The Nutcracker. And Brian Sibley writing to boot! The guy who'd adapted The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings for them!

So, the adaptation was broken up into four episodes airing from December 27 to the 30th, 2010. The episodes were titled "Christmas Eve," "The Great Battle," "Mouseykins' Revenge," and "Uncle and Nephew."

And how does it stick to the book? Quite faithfully. Next to nothing is omitted. However, there are a couple odd points. First off is that the Nutcracker himself speaks and makes remarks. It's through him that we get a description of Drosselmeyer. This kind of ruins the mystery that the Nutcracker is an enchanted person. He has a sarcastic, droll sense of humor. The other odd bits are the name changes. Marie and Fritz have become Mary and Fred. I suppose they Anglicized it for a British audience. Madame Mouserinks is renamed Madame Mouseykins. Instead of fat in Pirlipat's mother's sausages, it is described as bacon as some translations have it.

The major problem I had was the pacing. The story plays at a gentle pace until after the story of Pirlipat ends in Part 4. It started in Part 2 (ending with Mouseykins and her mice enjoying the bacon), goes through Part 3 (ending with clockmaker Drosselmeyer overhearing his nephew cracking nuts) and ended in Part 4. Then, the rest of the entire story is crammed into the remaining time in the half hour episode. It seems to me that Pirlipat's story should have been told at a quicker pace and the rest of the story should have had at least an entire half hour to play out. Still, it doesn't miss any beats.

A worthy entry in Hoffman's Nutcracker adapted for audio, however, it hasn't been released commercially in any form: CD or digital audio download. (How did I hear it? My little secret.)

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