“Bodies mean nothing to me, mon amour. It’s what’s inside that counts.”
Wow, Christopher Pennock really likes to lay on the smarm!
To be sure, the man hasn’t changed since his Dark Shadows teleseries days – this is pretty much the way we all knew and loved such characters as Jeb Hawkes, Gabriel Collins, Sebastian Shaw and…Cyrus Longworth.
Now, here’s something I needed explained to me as a longtime Dark Shadows aficionado, so I’m sure it bears sharing: this is not the Cyrus Longworth of the teleseries, the nebbishy doctor who wound up going all Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and going on a spree of kidnapping and killing.
Instead, this is another Cyrus, entirely original to Big Finish audio, and not from parallel time (remember all that business?). This one’s apparently possessed by “the Dark Lord” that Angelique and Nicholas Blair used to call on with regularity. Don’t ask me.
There’s also another pair of familiar characters here, firstly Sabrina Jennings (remember Chris the werewolf’s fiancee, who went mute and white haired from the shock of discovering his secret?), who’s apparently married him at last…but become a werewolf and killed her new husband on their wedding night (a plot thread I’d come across in last year’s Carriage of the Damned!)
Secondly, the evil ghost Danielle Roget, something of a regular plaything for Nicholas Blair’s purposes both in the teleseries and the Big Finish House by the Sea, once again in possession of another poor soul.
There’s also a new character, at least to this listener – unless you count one of the brief Blue Whale interviews from Beyond the Grave (remember the giggly British groupies with a thing for ghoulish murders? – that’s apparently this fellow, a certain Alfie Chapman and his girlfriend Emma (who’s the current possessee of Mme. Roget, apparently).
There’s a whole lot of body jumping, serial killing and double crossing, and some of these lines bear a distinctly homoerotic subtext (particularly around the Cyrus/Alfie “spirit swap” sequence…whew!), but this Dark Shadows veteran just felt sort of…lost.
It’s a pleasure to hear Pennock in action once again – his Gabriel Collins in particular was absolutely priceless, but all of his characters were some degree of decidedly over the top.
Even on a show that included folks like Grayson Hall and John Karlen, where directors deliberately pushed actors to give the most crazed, overemotional performances conceivable, Pennock’s characters stood out – and for a camp aficionado like yours truly, that made them absolutely priceless.
Similarly, his “alternate universe” Cyrus Longworth herein flips the dial from modulated to psychedelic freakout in record time, with the wide eyed, quavering tones of a madman whenever and wherever the script permits – and to say that author Aaron Lamont allows his characters plenty of room to do so is something of an understatement.
While I have no idea of his performances outside of the pointedly crazed soap of the Dark Shadows universe (one exception – caught him in a bit part as a random hunk in Claudia Jennings’ The Great Texas Dynamite Chase, which was amusing in trainspotting terms), Pennock really makes the most of his opportunities herein, and if you can use the term “chewing the scenery” in a positive sense, let us apply it here. He’s just Dark Shadows to the core.
Brigid Lohrey pulls off such a convincing Danielle Roget, I thought I was listening to Marie Wallace – the credits came as a bit of a shock, in fact. Lisa Richards delivers her standard, always welcome Sabrina Stuart nee Jennings, and Simon Kent does his level best to best (ahem) Pennock on his own turf with his cackling, quivering, queasily sexually sublimated murderer Alfie Chapman.
Whew. So the bottom line is, those more familiar with Big Finish Dark Shadows continuity than teleseries Dark Shadows continuity may appreciate the particulars far more than veterans will – I know I was somewhat lost on who some of these folks were and why more familiar ones were acting rather differently (and speaking of history with which I was wholly unfamiliar).
But it’s dark, filled with loveably over the top performances and if that’s your bent, has a few minutes of decided homoeroticism as (at least) subtext.