Well thank goodness I still have a working tape machine in my room otherwise I wouldn’t be able to bring you this blog at all. Once I had located the tape I slipped it in the player and off we went, off to Malory Towers for our first time.
As a child I had tapes two, three and four and had no idea that there were any escapades of Darrell Rivers and co after Upper Fourth at Malory Towers. However, when I discovered a collection of tapes at my library I devoured the other three tapes. The First Term, In the Fifth and Last Term. I remember having huge gaps in my knowledge when I finally got around to reading the books, because I believed the tapes were absolute! How wrong was I?
When I listen to them now I can definitely find the gaps and flaws in the story telling. For example we lose a great bit about what Mr Rivers says to Darrell before he leaves for work that morning about being good and working hard, which is echoed by Miss Grayling later in the book. The fact that this part becomes the running theme through Malory Towers, and this tiny section where Darrell has an interview with Miss Grayling and pipes up that her Father said the same to her, doesn’t make sense. It was mentioned twice because it was important in the book and to Blyton so the fact it was missed out of the audio dramatization for length purposes I suppose is a little lax in the scheme of continuity.
The actors are very good and convincing in their rolls however, and the girl playing Darrell I think is the same one who plays Anne in one set of Famous Five adaptations and the girl playing Gwendoline plays George as well in the same set of Famous Fives. Their portrayal of the characters here are very convincing and good matches.
I wish there was more for me to talk about apart from nitpicking on the story. I can tell you where all the gaps are, what’s missed and what is included or changed. All I think I can really honestly say is that the adaptations on cassette were my way into the Blyton universe so they hold a special place in my heart. Which is the most important thing!
There are some stark differences however, especially when looking at the half-term event and its lead up. In the book there is a big build up and we get to see Darrell asking everyone she can think of to come out with her parents as her first choice, Alicia, is going out with Betty for half term. The business and frustration I felt with Darrell when I finally read the book was very real and I too got aggravated with Mary-Lou for not standing up to Gwendoline, as you’re supposed to. However in the audio, Emily, the girl Darrell asks to go with her in the end is absent completely!
Talking about characters who disappear completely in the audio, Irene! Our darling scatterbrained Irene, mad for music and maths is completely missing from the first audio and given that she plays a big part in the next book, she’s fairly important as a character and dominant throughout the series, not getting dropped off somewhere along the line like we experience with some other characters that never get mentioned again. The loss of Irene, although it doesn’t effect the plot too much is quite devastating for a seasoned Malory Towers reader.
One thing I would like to mention before I round things off, is the instrumental music that introduces the audio, and fills in some gaps. It gives a very jolly, happy going off to boarding school feel to the story, and is quite like something Irene would have composed. It’s a piece that transports you to Malory Towers and into that beautiful Blytonian world.
I could sit here and pull apart the pieces of the book that did not make it into the audio but I would only bore myself and you dear readers. Given that its taken me a while to write even this and its getting quite late, I’m going to say “ta-ra!” and just finish with a score for the dramatization. Probably my least favourite adaptation the score for First Term at Malory Towers is a shameful 2 out of 5 for the simple reason that some of the best bits have been left out and great gaping gaps spoil my enjoyment of an otherwise good solid recording.
Next review: Second Form at Malory Towers: audio adaptation
Or read a review of the First Form novel here.