Monday, 11 August 2014

The Enemy Within written by Will Howells and directed by Darren Gross & David Darlington

What's it about: “Cyrus, I haven't been completely honest with you...” Cyrus Longworth has a secret. On the outside, he's the quiet handyman helping out with odd jobs. But his neighbours don't know about the voice inside his head. Sabrina Jennings has a secret. She's just moved in across the street, here to teach at the local school. But her new husband is nowhere to be seen. They could live happily ever after. But the dark secrets of Collinsport cast long shadows...

Cyrus: The voice in his head is judgemental, accusatory and disparaging. He tries to argue with it neutrally. Talking to yourself is the first sign of madness, although even Cyrus wont go as far as to take dating tips from the voice in his head. I love how calmly Christopher Pencock plays Cyrus, the very model of a concerned American citizen when there is such a caustic presence just beneath that supportive veneer. It goes to show we don't know exactly what is going on beneath the public facade that people present. He had a bad childhood although at first he had good grades and wanted to become a scientist. John wasn't another boy in his life feeding him with destructive thoughts, he was trapped inside his head. Invasive, insidious and very dangerous. He went to see all sorts of experts to get rid of his 'imaginary friend' but it was a persistent split personality, one that was ageing with him and wasn't going to budge. There are some people that can have an evaluation of their character that has nine positives and one negative and they will only fixate on the one negative. Clearly Cyrus is the opposite of that mindset, always finding the positives. He has a night out with Sabrina where they discover a corpse and share their darkest secrets...and yet he fixates on the one joyful moment, the kiss that she gifted him.

Sabrina: If her husband died a while back it does rather beg the question of why she pretended that he was following her down later. Did she have a hand in the killing? Is she running from the whole ghastly affair? Or is she trying to build a new life in the wake of the tragedy? The story of Sabrina and Chris in Collinsport is chronicled in the TV series and revealed her fiancé to have a taste for the moon when it shone upon him. They moved away When she discovered that he was a werewolf it turned her hair white and she lost the ability to talk...Carolyn Stoddard was instrumental in her recovery. Sabrina and Chris headed off to Bangor in 1973 with Chris' sister Amy in tow where it seems that the horror followed them. Did she kill him for his money? Could she not handle his lupine tendencies? Amy ran away after the murder and Sabrina never saw her again. Trust her to find another man with a dark force inside him that he cannot control, perhaps she is cursed to be attracted to men who aren't always themselves.

Standout Performance: I feel a bit mean by skipping over the great work that is done by Lisa Richards and Christopher Penncock because they bring the ever-evolving script to life with real panache but the performance that distracted me the most was James Unsworth as John. This could have been a potentially very irritating character, intruding on scenes and making facetious comments but I found him to be both amusing and frightening in the role (despite sounding uncannily like Robert Webb at times).

Sparkling Dialogue: 'You're my chariot, my vessel. You will do as you are told.'

Great Ideas: Talk about economy of the first scene the two protagonists of the story meet and one clearly has a massive secret involving the contents of her luggage and the other has a voice inside his head that is quite destructive. There's your story, right out in the open in a couple of minutes material. I am often suspicious of any town that is given a gloss of paint and promotes itself as a suburbian paradise. I always wonder what lies beneath all the smiles and manners. As Cyrus explains who lives in the street that Sabrina has moved into, the voice in his head gives us a running commentary of all the less than salubrious activities that goes on behind the perfect facades. Can you imagine going on a date and having somebody screaming in your ear the whole time, dwelling on your anxieties, filling you with expectation? When both characters realise that they are both from Collinsport there is a dramatic musical good can come from their shared home town, obviously. No matter how far you try and run away, your past in Collinsport will always catch up with you. It is clever how both characters call home to Collinsport to check out the story of each other. They are willing to trust each other but only after somebody they trust back home vouches for them. Once they can finally be honest with each other about their chequered pasts and their secrets, it opens up a new level of confidence between them. The reveal that Chris was a werewolf has confirmed something that I have long suspected, that Collinsport was the Sunnydale of its day. Dark forces, supernatural creatures and all sorts of nasties that crawl out from your bed in the dark...they all converge on Collinsport.  I can't wait until I get spend a decent amount of time there. Sabrina suspects Cyrus of the murders and locks him up in her husbands old chains. Cyrus suspects Sabrina of the murders because she knew the names of one of the victims without seeing the body. The trouble is given their could have been either one of them. Or both of them. Wonderfully in the wake of all their accusations and revelations they are ultimately able to help each other because they have come to understand one another. Because of the journey we have gone on with them, the realisation that they are both good people trapped in an impossible situation proves to be very rewarding. Two victims that deserve a chance to live their lives. It's a tragedy that they cannot be together but they managed to find some kind of peace within by coming together for this short period. I hope they are reunited in the future. 

Audio Landscape: Mowing the lawn, birds screaming, police sirens, rain lashing against a window, ring tone, chains, a baby screaming, devilish laughter, doorbell, thunder.

Standout Scene: What a terrifying, terrifying notion that the son of the Devil has been born into Cyrus. That the progeny of Lucifer is whispering in his ear and has been his entire life. Will he be released in the future? 

Result: 'Soon I will be free...' I have always been a massive fan of the horror genre and the psychological brand has always fascinated me the most so any story about a destructive imaginary friend was going to hook me in pretty quickly. The Enemy Within is almost exclusively told through the eyes of Cyrus and Sabrina and their maturing relationship which gives it incredible focus and allows both characters to shine with such exposure. Attraction, suspicion, divulgence, acceptance...this is a constantly evolving relationship that is thrilling to scrutinize. The opening suggests that both characters have thrilling secrets to divulge and they certainly do not disappoint when they are revealed, especially Cyrus'. The joy of these Dark Shadows releases is that not only do they open out a new audience to the eclectic world of this supernatural soap opera but they are able to push the boat out in ways that the Doctor Who ranges could only dream of in terms of horror and disturbing content. They are genuinely discomforting to listen to in parts and that is a fascinating feeling to explore on audio, when the horror is right in your ears and such a personal experience. This a tight script, superbly acted and another winner in this mature and formidable range. I would never have checked out Dark Shadows if it wasn't for a good friend  because I have never seen a single episode of the series. What a crime that would have been as this range features some of the most challenging material that Big Finish has released: 9/10


Anonymous said...

I thought this audio was brilliant and I agree with Joe Ford that James Unsworth is an outstanding talent. He should be used more! I've also heard him in some of the Dr Who audios by Big Finish, also very good.

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