Unfortunately, Five Go to Billycock Hill is one of my least favourite Famous Five books. (It’s right down at the bottom with Five Are Together Again and Five Have a Mystery to Solve.) But life isn’t fair and so that’s the story that came with the one I really wanted (Five Go Off to Camp.) Still, I’ll make the best of it as even my least favourite Five books are still a decent read.
The early part of the book is very quickly covered, most of it is narrated with very little dialogue. The narrator even quotes some of the Five’s dialogue at times. In fact, listening further, it seems a lot more of this tale is narrated rather than acted compared to the others.
The scene with the fake spider is quite funny, though I can’t remember it from the book. Perhaps that’s just because I’ve read it less often than the others.
While most of the dialogue and language remains true to the original, there has been at least one update. Mr Gringle buys a butterfly from the boys for fifty pence, which the boys then give to poor old Mrs Janes. Even in 2008 fifty pence wouldn’t have bought her much.
Some of the sound effects during the story are better than others. Timmy’s as bad as ever, he sounds like a very small dog at best and a poor imitation by a person at worst. The planes sound fine though, and the Five splashing in the pool as well. Also good are the news reports from the radio, as they come complete with static!
I wasn’t very convinced by the ‘whistling’ in the caves though I suppose it would be frightening when you were down there. Benny’s pigling doesn’t get to squeal during the story, it’s only referred to by the narrator so obviously they didn’t have either a recording of piglet sounds or a person capable of imitating them!
There’s some nice creepy and dramatic music later on, at one or two of the more critical parts of the story while the boys are prowling about the butterfly farm at night. We know it’s night as we can hear owls hooting every few seconds.
Mrs Janes’ voice isn’t very good really. It’s clearly a young woman affecting a quavering old-lady voice expect it comes off more like she’s impersonating a sheep at times. The other voices are good enough though, Benny, Toby, Jeff, the butterfly men etc.
I’ve found it difficult to write any sort of conclusion to this post tonight. The audio dramatisation was a good one, it adapted the book well but as it’s not a favourite of mine I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as some of the other ones. If you like Billycock Hill, though, and I’m sure plenty of people do, then I’m sure you’ll like the CD.