Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Hobbit BBC Radio drama review

This radio version of the Hobbit was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1968, and has been released on CD now by AudioGo, no doubt to make the most of the first part of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy.
And while listening to this production, it is hard not to have the movie looming large over everything. I was, in fact, determined not to mention the movie in this review, but that has proved to be impossible, so I’ll get all my thoughts on that out of the way.
As I’m sure you all know, the first movie covers only the first few chapters of the book, and it is amazing to compare the treatment of, say, the visit to Goblin Town here to the one in the movie. What was an epic action set piece on screen amounts to nothing more than a few lines here.
And then we’ve got Radaghast only being mentioned in passing and the animals talking, there are considerable differences. And listening to the rest of the story, I found myself both excited and curious as to what they’ll be doing in the next two movies.
But does this adaption work in its own right?
It certainly does. It is quite a light hearted adaption, with Bilbo in particular being wonderfully cast and played. With Gandalf, who is ssociated with Sir Ian McKellen so strongly, it was difficult to get used to another voice speaking his lines, but Heron Carvic is a fine actor and, well, he did it first, after all!
Some of the sound design was a bit too much for me – the effects added to the voices of the animals were at times too extreme, and some of their dialogue was hard to decipher. The music suffers a bit from this too, but it may be the case that the music was simply not to my taste. The final disc in this set is an isolated score, so you can make your own mind up about it. But I have to say, the version of the Misty Mountains song in the movie was much better and more atmospheric than the one here.
This all sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, but I am not. This is a very strong production, and is cleverly adapted and has universally great acting. It is thoroughly recommended to any fans of the book or the movie, and
is the ideal accompaniment to a long car journey!

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