I’m being bad this week and listening to CD2 from the set before CD1. I can’t help that though as I promised to do Five Go Down to the Sea and I much prefer that to the alternative which is Five Have a Mystery to Solve.
The voice cast is my favourite group, which always adds to my enjoyment though I noticed from the start that Dick sounded a little older than in some of the other recordings. I’m not sure what order the recordings were made and it’s to be expected if they were done over a period of months that the cast would grow up and their voices would alter especially for the boys!
There is a solid cast beyond the Five as well – perhaps the best yet. We hear the Station Guard at Kirrin, Mr and Mrs Penruthlan, Yan, Old Grandad, Sid (but not Mr Binks) and the Guv’nor.
The Station Guard reminded me suddenly of Robbie Coltrane from the Comic Strip series. His voice a little, but more his speech about how down in Cornwall there is a fierce coast and hungry sea. It’s wild and lonely, not much place for a holiday. No pier, no concert parties, no cinemas no nothing. I had to go check whether or not that was in the book as I couldn’t recall, and it is. It’s even a bit longer – with no ice-cream barrows in the middle.
I was going to say it was funny how hearing it aloud sparked the recognition but I’m sure I haven’t read the book since watching the Comic Strip episodes anyway. Perhaps I would have gotten the same spark from reading it. I’m now wondering if those lines from the Comic Strip were deliberately copying that little speech.
Anyway, while I had the book out I noticed that the references to furriners (foreigners) are removed but we still get the charming line By Tre, Pol and Pen, you may know the Cornishmen from Julian. I usually try not to compare exactly what’s in the audio to the original book as I could be there all day – one hour is nowhere near long enough to cover every detail of a book. However, having the book there I did skim a little and from the opening chapter there are a few small scenes cut – Timmy getting a smut in his eye on the train and the Five nearly missing their stop as they didn’t realise they were at the halt.
I think it’s a mark of the quality of these audios that you don’t instantly notice all these little omissions. I know I’ve read this book dozens of times and I didn’t notice until I looked at the book as I had got so caught up in the story. I’m sure you might notice the odd bit, if a little piece was a favourite of yours but on the whole they do a very skilful job of cutting down and stitching together the scenes.
Mr and Mrs Penruthlan are quite big characters in both the book and the audio. Mr Penruthlan, true to form, doesn’t say a coherent word for the majority of the audio (as we know, he’s not got his teeth in!) He comes away with plenty of dialogue though, Oo-ee-oo-arr, being his first ‘words’, and then Meemukeyock, or, Buttercup as Mrs Penruthlan translates. His sounds are a bit more varied than in the book – where he mostly says just ah, ooh or ock.
Mrs Penruthlan calls him Mr Penruthlan just like in the book and it’s quite funny to hear. She gets very upset later, when they accuse Mr P of being a smuggler and although she doesn’t box his ears (darned updates!) she does gives a good performance of being near tears and of defending her husband’s honour.
Mr P, when he finally gets a proper voice, is quite marvellous. He’s hysterical when he’s laughing at the end and can barely get his words out to tell them all about Julian and Dick in Clopper’s costume.
Yan is good as well, with his own distinct voice. Oi want to stay, he tells them from the start. His signature word – frit – is missing though.
Old Great Grandad is another great voice, he sounds just perfectly old and quavery. There was a level of menace and darkness to his story of the wreckers too.
Only Sid and the Guv’nor from the Barnies get voiced, the Guv’nor only getting a few lines while Sid has a very strong (and almost caricature-ish) Irish accent.
I would say the Five are better acted in this audio than in some of the others (despite being the same cast as some of those). Julian is particularly good at the end, sounding so very uncertain and apprehensive as he talks to Mrs P. We um, we think, that he must be oneofthesmugglers… Perhaps the actors were all a little older and more experienced by the time they recorded this story.
There are plenty of background sounds to add depth as usual, chickens, dogs, birdsong, waves on the beach, sheep, the Barnies’ wagons, the storm, horses… Timmy’s got a decent bark in this one and the Barnies music plays for a brief time. They even include footsteps and creaking doors in the dead of night and the sound of Clopper’s zipper being done up and undone.
One last observation – although a few things may have been “updated” (though you could argue they were just cut with the rest of the scenes that wouldn’t fit) – it’s still cigarettes and not sweets that fall out of Clopper’s head.
I really enjoyed listening to this audio tonight, it helps that it was of one of my favourites from the series I suppose but I really recommend this especially if you’ve not listened to one before.