Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Jago in Love written by Nigel Fairs and directed by Lisa Bowerman

What’s it about: Escaping the shadowy presence of the mysterious Professor Claudius Dark, Jago, Litefoot and Leela take a holiday in Brighton. There, Jago meets and falls for music hall singer Abigail Woburn, a relationship that threatens to split the infernal investigators apart, as dark forces gather on the beach…

Infernal Investigators: I think it is worth stepping back a little bit and seeing what makes this series work so well as we enter Jago & Litefoot series four – a feat that would have been impossible had it not been for the perspicacity of David Richardson for seeing the potential in using the two characters in a companion chronicle and for Andy Lane who set the bar so high with his first script The Mahogany Murderers of which all of the subsequent writers have been trying (and to their enormous credit succeeding) to capture the magic of that initial excitement as the format clicked into place so vividly. To take two guest characters from a one off drama in a serial science fiction show and give them their own platform is something that could surely only happen in Doctor Who? Over the first three seasons we have seen the intrepid duo tackle everything from haunted graveyards to zombies and time fractures and they have managed to get through it with their friendship getting progressively stronger and back in time for tea and muffins. If you think this is a cosy series that revels in machiavellian machinations then you might be in for a shock – they’ve murdered regular characters (Ellie’s astonishing development), changed the format (Litefoot & Sanders), introduced one of the best Doctor Who companions (Leela), told stories in the form of storybooks, tackled issues as damning as suicide pacts and handled trips into the future as deftly as their recreation of the past. It would seem that the writers have gone out of their way to prove that this series has a format as deft and malleable as Doctor Who itself. With its constant innovation and atmospheric tales it is no wonder that the series is getting more popular as it goes along rather than diminishing its impact. With one verbose, ruddy, clownish, theatre owner and one well spoken, charming, warm pathologist, a cockney barmaid, a noble savage and now a sinister enemy waiting in the wings it would seem that this series is developing a set of regulars to rival the best of anything else that Big Finish has produced. And with standout writers John Dorney, Matthew Sweet, Justin Richards, Andy Lane the series is in fantastic hands…all bound together by director Lisa Bowerman and producer David Richardson who treat it as a labour of love. If you haven’t tried this series yet you don’t know what you are missing out on…check out my reviews, check out other reviews online…everybody can’t be wrong. Any season that is fronted by Trevor Baxter, Christopher Benjamin, Louise Jameson, Lisa Bowerman and Colin Baker is a formidable beast indeed.

Theatrical Fellow: Is there anything more sublime than listening to Christopher Benjamin get his tongue around some humorous and smart alliterative dialogue? Jago feels as happy as he has ever been whilst perusing the prom at the seaside with a fine lady on his arm. Jago enjoys recounting stories in a much more florid (and far more entertaining) way than Litefoot…in his words the demon that assaulted them was sent straight back to hell! He comes over all queer when he first spots Abigail and Leela fears he has been possessed by a demon. Wonderfully Jago has the nerve to suggest that Arthur Conan Doyle reaped his inspiration from his nocturnal and nefarious adventures with the good Professor. Abigail asks why Jago puts up with the way that Litefoot and Leela look down on him but he suggests that when you have found somebody that you can really call a friend you are willing to put up with any kind of nonsense. I love the way he accidentally burbles out that he was going to propose to Abigail and thus completely ruining the surprise. He sees his life without her as a grey one, a life without meaning. Like a proper gentleman he gets down on one knee and proposes properly but needs help getting up again because he has a gyppy knee!

Posh Professor: He does have a certain standing in medical and economical circles and wonders if that is how Dark has heard of him. Litefoot is appalled by Leela’s forthright suggestion that Jago wishes to mate with Abigail! When he hears Jago offer to fork out money on Abigail he wonders if he has hit his head harder than he thought! Baxter is compelling when he looks into a mirror and sees that nothing is there and starts smashing them like a man possessed. He reveals that he saw somebody who meant a great deal to him a long time ago in the mirror…but it could never be.

Noble Savage: ‘I am not a madam!’ Nigel Fairs turning up to write for Jago & Litefoot is fortuitous because he happens to have much practice in writing for Leela and scripted one of her finest audio adventures in the companion chronicles range (The Catalyst – check it out because Jameson is absolutely spellbinding). Leela has no need of money and she can run faster than any missus! She would never go home when there was the smell of a hunt in her nostrils. The Doctor used to speak of a place called ‘holy-day’ where warriors can rest from their battles and prepare for the next. She thinks it is good to learn from the wisdom of the old. She’s fully prepared to tackle this cupid who has slain Mr Jago! There is a slight degree of prejudice to her character, thinking that Abigail is diseased because she has Alopecia and would not be a good match for Jago because of it. This uncivilised madam is not afraid to get her hands dirty and slaughters a beast when it threatens her friends.

Dark Doctor?: I honestly thought that this series couldn’t get any better and then they bloody well slap my favourite Doctor (or at least the performer) into the series! I have long championed Colin Baker’s outstanding contribution to Big Finish and I have heard him mention in many an interview that he wished he had taken part in some of the classic Doctor Who adventures like The Talons of Weng Chiang. Now is his chance to do so and his plummy, eloquent voice fits the period perfectly. Given a sinister, manipulative role in a Victorian drama series, Baker shows what a versatile actor he really is. What’s interesting about Claudius Dark’s introduction is how he has managed to send a message to both Jago & Litefoot in their exact speech patterns. Almost as if he knew them already…and then he asks ‘don’t you recognise me?’

Standout Performance: Didn’t you read my write up on the series?

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘There’s only one Queen of England and she despises Brighton!’
‘This has nothing to do with you – bald one!’ – hahaha!

Great Ideas: With the addition of new cast members and in the midst of a storyline you might think that this is wrong place to hop onto this series but there is a handy recap told via Jago to Abigail that reacquaints old listeners and gets new ones up to speed with regards to the characters and settings. Setting the story in Brighton is another delight because it is a town I know intimately. I loved the atmosphere as we are first introduced to Abigail – a right proper knees up in the local theatre with a piano being assaulted and a voice that could charm the larks from the sky! Every mirror in the place cracked? A trip to the funfair offers a potential viewing of circus freaks…its funny but I saw something similar on TV the other day – The Jerry Springer Show! Spirits of a couple trapped between worlds with unfinished business was also played out in Buffy’s I Only Have Eyes for You but its such an evocative concept and transfers so well into this period setting I wont complain. George and Mary both died on 14th August, 1887, perishing in the snowstorm that Gypsy Nancy predicted. Mary was trapped in the mirror whilst George didn’t realise he was dead and searched all of Brighton for his beloved. Cue awesome scenes of Litefoot and George re-enacting their reunion, an oddly homoerotic moment of supernatural skulduggery!

Audio Landscape: Thunder rumbling, rain pouring, seagulls screaming in the sky, the sea rolling, applause, bawdy theatrical atmosphere, smashing glass, a man crying, footsteps, screaming, snow whipping up a storm, a steam train chugging off, a delicious screaming conclusion for Abigail…

Musical Cues: Absolutely on the ball. Light and bubbly during the theatre scenes, reticent and unpredictable when things get spooky and triumphant when Jago & Abigail get engaged. Its business as usual and if that seems like a jaded compliment it isn’t meant to be, that man Howard Carter is perfect for this series.

Standout Scene: I was waiting and waiting for Abigail to turn out to be a malevolent presence and was genuinely surprised when she turned out to be exactly what she appeared to be. It has the rather touching side effect of making Jago realise that love is impossible whilst he leads such a reckless life and it comes down to his chaotic adventures with Litefoot or a relationship with Abigail. When a heart is torn in two like that it is impossible not to sympathise but when it is lovable old Jago its almost unbearable. Nothing is going to tear him from the good Professor’s side so he has to lose his one chance at love. Sniff…sniff… And then the last scene reveals that things were more sinister than they seemed after all…

Result: After the experimental nature of series three we are back in the more comfortable, atmospheric ambiance of series one and two and it’s a winning formula that continues to please. With the added value of Leela and the spooky atmosphere of this series at its height, Jago in Love offers plenty of witty dialogue, jump out of your seat moments and a touching exploration of our favourite theatrical impresario under Cupid’s spell. With a trip to the seaside, the theatre and the funfair there are plenty of opportunities for Lisa Bowerman to immerse us in that glowing Victorian ambiance that the series flaunts so engagingly. The performances are as gorgeous as ever - its lovely to get to see the tender side of Christopher Benjamin, Louise Jameson fits this series like a glove now and delivers some pitch perfect observations and ripostes and Trevor Baxter gets the chance to play some chilling scenes as Litefoot in a very unusual role. Mirrors stealing souls, photographic skulduggery, disembodied voices, snarling beasts and possessed Professors…Jago & Litefoot is back and its at its entertaining best: 9/10

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