Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Case of the Gluttonous Guru written by Marc Platt and directed by Lisa Bowerman

What’s it about: After travelling through time and space with the Doctor, Henry Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot are back in London starting brand new lives. Jago has become a huge celebrity and Litefoot the quiet owner of a bookshop, but in all other respects it is business as usual. As they investigate a wealth of new cases – including a restaurant where the food eats the people, and a book with dangerous powers – a long game is playing out. A figure from their past is back, and this time he means to destroy them...

Theatrical Fellow: Everybody is so young these days (or at least the young are more apparent) and as a result Jago feels positively invigorated. Secretly though he too is missing his own time and when asked to conjure a happy memory it is back in his theatre thrilling the crowds. For all its modern mechanistic machinations this century will never be his home. Jago has always had a terrible appetite (you can barely go through  story without him craving a pie and a pint!) and here that insatiable hunger is taken to comic and horrific extremes. The thought of Henry Gordon Jago foreswearing the luxury of libation is barely worth thinking about! I was greatly amused by the way that Jago the fiction character with his own saying (‘Corks!) has become something of a minor celebrity (who often put on fictional personas) with that same saying. Whilst I was raising my eyes to the ceiling thinking that some audiences will buy into anything I was chuckling at how I have been buying into that same image and interpretation of a Victorian gent for four seasons already! He’s never had digestive disarray like this before. The ending where Litefoot and friends present Jago with the Palace theatre new and restored warms the cockles.

Posh Professor: He’s trying to adjust to the sixties in his own way, trying to master the telephone and the lingo but having trouble drumming up trade in his bookshop. Everything moves so blessed fast in this decade and he’s having trouble keeping up. Jago is a success in this time period and Litefoot doesn’t want to drag him away from that. Litefoot recklessly looked up the year that both he and Jago die and now has that foreknowledge hanging over him…the trouble is he simply had to know that they got back home because the more time they spend in the sixties the less likely that is starting to seem. I’m wondering if that glimpse of their future is going to be relevant in future seasons. 

Standout Performance: It’s always nice to see Chook Sibtain turn up in audio stories. He last appeared in The Acheron Pulse in a completely different role and he proves just as game in this story, embracing the want of worldly pleasures that the era is famed for. He’s a very different sort of villain (more of a stooge actually), one that charms and delights whilst introducing you to a leech that will devour you from the inside. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘TV! It eats talent! Material that should be polished over the years gets one airing and then it’s into the bin.’
‘What have you been eating? Or has it been eating you?’
‘Flaming celebrities – always disappointing in person!’
‘I am an expectant parent but did anyone give up their seat?’
‘What are you doing here?’ ‘Playing second fiddle as usual.’

Great Ideas: Poor Ellie envies the Professor and Mr Jago because they reached this decade the easy way and didn’t have to suffer two World Wars along the way. I bet there were all kinds of organisations and groups like the Temple of Transcendental Revelation at the time, waiting to exploit the imagination and the explorative nature of youth. Salt is slowly introduced to the story and mentioned again and again, the craving picking up steam. Food that hatches in your stomach into a swarm of voracious little tadpoles that imbue their victims with a terrifying hunger. If it wasn’t for the comical tone of this piece it could be quite disgusting the way it focuses on a gnawing hunger that knows no bounds. There is a reference to that Celestial Cove Li’sen Chang and one of his artefacts, which sounds like it might be relevant in rather an important way going forward. I’d have been surprised if we had skipped back to this era and somebody hadn’t licked a toad…they can provide the most stimulating hallucinations apparently! The old mother gives birth to the new mother, which is how the joyous cycle of rebirth continues. It wouldn’t be a problem if the new mother wasn’t gestating inside Henry Jago’s guts! The only story that sees the villain defeated by forcing the hero to take his medicine. It would seem that Ellie has had plenty of time to practice martial arts…and has turned into a restaurant owner cum Emma Peel! I never saw that one coming but with a story is over the top as this one anything goes. The Palace has been restored and paid for by Ellie. 

Audio Landscape: Telephone dialler, frogs and newts cooing, elephant screaming, party atmosphere, many a burp, the sound of a gnawing stomach belching with hunger, an owl hooting, lots of toads croaking en masse, Jago throwing up.

Musical Cues: Turns out that the Indian influences in the music last week are actually an important narrative point spread across the season. Go figure. Carter relishes the chance to leap into the pomp and bluster and grooviness of the entertainment business of the sixties and rocks on for all it’s worth. There are also some wonderfully dramatic stings for those of us of a theatrical nature.

Isn’t it Odd: I realise they have to shake things up a bit every now again but I’m not keen when Jago becomes completely irrational as he does in this adventure to the point of obstinacy. It’s understandable because of the parasite that is consuming him from inside (I would be a little unreasonable if I was being eaten from the inside out!) but it’s a side to his character that I’m glad we don’t see too often. His theatrical flourish at the climax was a welcome return to the old Henry we know and love.

Standout Scene: Jago heading to his Mama to be eaten asking her to put the kettle on whilst Litefoot is attacked by an army of psychedelic toads. Uncommon in the extreme. 

Result: What a bizarre, macabre piece of work. This wont be to everyone tastes (very droll!) because it is completely over the top (‘peace upon your luncheon, Mama!’) and features some truly disgusting ideas but if you are willing to go with it then The Case of the Gluttonous Guru sees Jago & Litefoot dipping its toes into something completely different from the norm. Finally Jago has met his match…his own hunger and much of the comedy and drama revolves around his slow surrender to temptation. On a production level this is another superb installment with Howard Carter’s music standing out once again as something to be savoured. Carter above anyone else is taking advantage of the ranges new setting. The only story where the horror is a gastronomic nasty and one that builds from within and starts clawing its way out. It’s a freakish mixture of 60s kaleidoscopia and ribald humour (you’ve never had so many burps in a Big Finish adventure outside of Unbound’s Exile and bout of vomiting too) that generates it’s own unique nature (there will never be another story like this one, which you can’t say about every Jago & Litefoot adventure), but one that some parts of the audience might find uncomfortable. That’s a feeling I take pleasure in from fiction so I liked the freshness of tone but I couldn’t imagine an entire season of adventures in this vein. Enjoyable, but completely out there: 8/10

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