Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Stone’s Lament written by Mike Tucker and directed by Ed Salt

What’s it about: Bratheen Traloor, reclusive billionaire, has lived alone for over twenty years on the planet Rhinvil. Now he has broken his isolation, inviting Bernice Summerfield to examine a mysterious artefact unearthed during building work at his sprawling mansion. Accompanying Benny is Adrian Wall, the Kiloran construction manager from the Braxiatel Collection. Adrian is responsible for overseeing the work, but his construction crew has vanished, and soon he and Benny discover that Traloor is not as alone as they might think...

Archaeological Adventuress: The first audio featuring both Bernice and Adrian…the first a very fruitful relationship that would see them bring a child into this world but not in the way you would imagine. They discuss the events of The Squire’s Crystal (if you haven’t read it the outcome was that Bernice was inhabited by some awful witch who took a shine to Adrian and bonked his brains out in her body and subsequently – although we don’t know this yet Bernice is pregnant because of it!). Calls his men brain-dead morons who wouldn’t know an archaeological dig if it jumped up and bit them on the arse! Hates it when people vandalise sites – what good is progress if the past is destroyed in the process. Cold wet and muddy – an archaeological paradise! Good advice, don’t piss off your only friend. She wonders if Adrian is as embarrassed by their situation as she is. False modesty does not suit her. Benny socks Adrian when he enters her room looking for some rumpy pumpy and he tells her how much she has hurt him. She has the enquiring mind of the explorer. It’s a life that suits he, archaeology gives her a lot of pleasure and it has a lot more life in it than you imagine. Just for once she’d like to meet a man who doesn’t think with his muscles or his balls! Obviously not as promiscuous as her reputation suggests! Adrian understands Bernice better than Traloor ever well.

Standout Performance: I remember finding Harry Myers’ Adrian really wooden when I first heard this audio but having spent the last ten years getting closer and closer to Adrian you learn that his aggressive demeanour is simply for show. Myers’ rough accent really does suit his character and he will go on to reveal sides to Adrian’s character than you would believe. Lisa Bowerman plays a very creepy house.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You’d be bored shitless there!’, ‘Bloody hell!’, ‘Coming you random piece of crap!’, ‘Will you stop pissing me off!’, ‘Bitch!’, ‘I’m scared shitless!’, ‘Shit!’, ‘Lets trash the bitch and go home!’, ‘I’m going to take you to pieces…piece by bloody piece!’, ‘You murdering bastard!’ – What is this, Torchwood?
‘A house with hot and cold running clichés!’
‘The people who rape the world will suffer!’

Great Ideas: Adrian’s work crew have left Traloor’s worksite a tip and disappeared and items from his collection have been stolen, the cases vandalised. Traloor likes to surround himself with beauty in a universe that is ugly and has a collection that would make Braxiatel blush. Bernice called Adrian’s room and invited him to her room (wink wink) but it never happened. The shuttle sank into the rock? Traloor has a shrine to Bernice, a fascination of his for so long. In the absence of the real Bernice Summerfield Traloor made one in the computer, to fool himself that she was there with him. She’s jealous! Bleeding rock? People constantly make machines that think and then act surprised when they need more than servitude. For 20 years Traloor has been teaching House to be more like Benny. The planet was butchered by Adrian’s thugs – it was alive and could feel them cutting into it. It used Adrian’s crew as a resource just as they would use it.

Audio Landscape: Lightning, rain pattering, there’s a dramatic background hum in the shuttle, the waves lapping against the sand, stepping through the surf, seagulls, the computer voice is Lisa Bowerman, pouring wine, rough sea, walking across shingle, crying, screaming, explosions, rubble, the house sinking into the sea.

Musical Cues: More random percussion instruments…do Toby’n’Emily know how to write a melody? Nice piano music during the dinner scenes.

Isn’t it Odd: The ‘hi my friends call me Benny!’ has been removed from the beginning of the theme song – lets consider that a blessed relief. Why is ‘the thrill of a mystery Bernice’s only releasseeeee?’ She has it off every other week! ‘I want to play with you?’ – ugh! Who thought up these lyrics? They really were finding their feet at this stage, the slightly rewritten but beautifully produced New Adventures of the first season out of the way (Oh No it Isn’t, Walking to Babylon and Just War I found especially good) they needed to feel their way into producing original dramas. With The Secret of Cassandra and The Stone’s Lament you have a series that is struggling to find an identity, bringing in inexperienced audio writers to test the waters. The novels haven’t been helping, both Justin Richards and Steve Cole wrote a novel apiece which failed to generate much interest, introducing Bernice’s new workplace in the Braxiatel Collection and the Fifth Axis – both of which would go on to be very important – but failing to find that element of fun that made stories like Birthright so enjoyable in the first year. It’s only with The Squire’s Crystal, a riotous comedy novel courtesy of Jac Rayner that you actually see some potential emerging but with these two audios kicking off the second season the quality levels sink again. It’s a shame really because every subsequent season I really enjoyed, indeed season three oozes confidence and humour and it might be a better place to start if you want to follow this series (although you will miss out on the next story which is the smartest of the second year). Doesn’t James Lailey sound awfully young to be a reclusive eccentric millionaire? When the house attacked Benny I had no idea what was going on – it sounded like completely haphazard moments of destruction!

Standout Scene: The scene when Adrian tried to snuggle up to Bernice is memorable for all the wrong reasons!

Result: Better, but still lacking, The Stone’s Lament only scores a few points because it gives Bernice some characterful material and introduces the very fun Adrian to the series. As a story it runs on the spot throughout, it takes more than a few arbitrary miscommunications to make a decent horror and the onslaught of rain, thunder and crashing waves tries to conjure up a heady atmosphere that the script lacks. It’s an embarrassing love triangle between Bernice, a computer in her image and Braveen that could have claustrophobic but it’s all so unconvincingly written and brought to life it fails to generate any tension. The sudden last minute twist that the planet is alive and psychotic comes from nowhere with no time to explore it. Setting a story in a psychotic house is a great idea and could drive a fantastic story but unfortunately that story isn’t called The Stone’s Lament, its called Sick Building. Brilliant Adrian Salmon cover though: 4/10

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