This is the last of the CDs that I have, and I’ve left this one to last as it’s one of my least favourite Fives. It’s hard to say why. Something to do with how un-Fiveish it is for them to let their boat float away on the tide, perhaps. They were always so careful and considerate of any belongings big or small, especially those that were not their own. I’m also not a huge fan of Wilfrid, he’s rather annoying and somehow his affinity with animals seems like it should be in a fairy-tale, not a Famous Five book. Anyway, that’s not got anything to do with what the audio dramatisation is like.
As often is the case, the cast of voices is quite small though there are a few incidental characters along the way.
We have the Five, of course. It’s not the strongest group this time around, the two boys quite similar, as do the two girls. In fact at times George and Dick could even be confused. Then when you add Wilfrid – another average boy – it’s really not always clear who’s meant to be talking.
Saying that, there are a few times where Wilfrid is very wooden sounding, as if he’s reading right from the script as he goes. “He was. Once. One of the. Watchmen. Himself.” He also gives a rather awful scream as Anne throws water over him (we do get to hear the splash of that as well). Anne sounds distinctly un-Anne-like at this point but perhaps as she’s being a tiger this is intentional. Oh – and – the Five actually sing briefly at the start while they’re riding their bikes. What a treat!
I don’t recall hearing a lot from Timmy which is perhaps because he actually sounds like a real dog this time and he doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. We do get to hear him lapping water from a bowl at one point, though thankfully we are spared the sounds of him choking on a ball as that is omitted from the dramatisation.
Mrs Kirrin(/Barnard) is cut from the story apart from the briefest of mentions but Mrs Layman gets to appear still. She sounds like a nice old lady. Later we meet a rather elderly sounding Lucas at the golf course and he actually gets quite a lot of time to deliver his story about Whispering Island as well as the other bits and pieces he says about Timmy and his hedges. The golf pro also appears (though he’s described as a man checking golf scores) and he sounds very posh.
The ‘boy of 15’ who rents the boats never gets to speak but it’s interesting they haven’t updated him to a grown-up.
And lastly, we have the two baddies of the story. Julian (I think) says “There’s something wrong. Those men look like foreigners, they certainly aren’t groundskeepers,” when he sees them. Their names are Emilio and Carlo and they have rather stereotypical European, perhaps Italian accents. They’re a bit like Bella from Fireman Sam actually and say things like “We don’ta wanta strangers around,” and “I’mma getting outta here!”. Generally they’re ok but toward the end they start acting rather comedic and over the top.
Apart from the voices there’s a good array of sound effects to go with the story. Some are perhaps strange choices such as Julian emptying golf balls from his pockets and the pro pouring them lemonade, especially when Wilfrid’s pipe ‘dirge’ is spoken of but never heard.
We hear the Five rowing in the sea and dragging their boat (not far enough) up the beach, plus Dick makes some very odd noises as he climbs down into the well. The Five also do rather a lot of exaggerated grunting as they pull him back up, then a few more times as they deal with Wilfrid’s boat and so on.
The wailing cliffs and whispering trees are rather a disappointemnt. They both sound the same and neither sounds like it would be truly frightening or even disconcerting should you hear it on an isolated island some day.
This time around I noticed a little more of the good old exposition dialogue. Especially when Dick is down the well and is pretty much talking to himself about what he’s seeing and doing instead of it being described by the narrator (or Enid in the book). The end paragraphs where Enid describes that Julian is lying back and Dick is looking down at the island etc is narrated exactly as is.
One question I had was how does Wilfrid know George is a girl? Quite near the start he mentions George is a girl, though I don’t recall anyone telling him. Mrs Layman thought she was a boy (though she doesn’t appear to speak to Wilfrid between her meeting the Five and then Wilfrid doing so too.) I don’t know if that’s in the book and I can’t remember where it happened so I haven’t spotted it yet either. If you can answer the question please leave a comment!
So there we have it, I had rather a lot to say about my second-least-favourite Famous Five story. Perhaps it was because I spent the hour painting shelves and really listening rather than multi-tasking and browsing the web like I usually do. That’s my top tip for the day then, do your DIY while listening to an exciting Famous Five audio dramatisation. Just don’t get too enthralled or you might end up making a bit of a mess.