Archive by Author

Charles Norton – Dick Barton Live (blog)

3 Oct

Dick Barton LiveSunday 16th June, 2013
Dick Barton – Special Agent LIVE

I’m hugging a dustbin. I’m in the back of a cab on my way to the Y Theatre in Leicester and the dustbin is important. Ten hours from now we’re going to be using it to help create some sound effects in a new full-cast audio recording of Dick Barton – Special Agent. I’ve asked the taxi company to send the biggest cab they’ve got. It’s got to be big enough to take not only the huge aluminium dustbin, but also a big wicker basket, several wine bottles, some big sheets of glass, a tray full of gravel, half a dozen costumes, a four foot long echo chamber and a load of other bits and pieces that will be used to recreate the experience of being in an early fifties BBC radio recording studio. Just as it would have been back in 1951, the cast will meet for the first time this morning. They’ll rehearse the script for the first time this afternoon. And they’ll record it for the first (and only) time this evening. The recording will be live in front of 200-strong audience and none of us has ever done anything like this before. The cab that eventually turns up is far too small and that’s why the dustbin is currently wedged between me and the dashboard.

The cab drops me on the pavement outside the Y Theatre. The place is deserted. I put the bin inside the wicker basket and can just about manage to shuffle inside with it and most of my bags. I take my chances and leave a wooden captain’s chair and the echo chamber to sit outside on the kerb for the moment, while I check in. The echo chamber is actually a chromium-plated pedal-bin, screwed to a camera tripod, with some artfully arranged knicker elastic inside it and I hope that the chances of anyone stealing it from the roadside are pretty slim.

The Phoenix Arts Centre (just round the corner from the theatre), where we’re having the read-through in a hired room. The cast aren’t due for another half-hour. This should give me plenty of time to see the caterers, lay out the room and be ready to meet the cast as they arrive at 11.30. However the cast arrive very early and the caterers aren’t here at all yet. I collapse into the foyer with my hundredweight of carrier-bags and go over to meet them.

15.40 PM
I leave the cast in the capable hands of our director (Rob Thrush) and wonderfully alert script supervisor Emma Shelley, to wrap up the readthrough and rehearsal and eat up the rest of the food. Meanwhile I walk back over to the theatre to help set up with our sound engineer, Bob Smith. The readthrough has been a lot of fun. Everyone gets on terribly well and a startling amount of innuendo is squeezed out of the names ‘Dick’ and ‘Jock’. We don’t have the microphones for the rehearsal and, to be honest, the room isn’t really big enough to fit all the period recording kit in anyway. So we have to compromise. We clear the furniture to the sides and stand a pedal-bin (they get a lot of use today) on a chair in the middle of the room. This will represent the microphone for the purposes of rehearsals. The cast have to rotate around it, making sure they’re always on either one side of it or the other, avoiding an acoustically dead-zone in the middle. The trick is to maintain a constant flow of people round the mic, allowing the actors to retreat to their chairs at the back whenever they need to without bumping into one another. Barnaby Edwards (who also happens to be the lead-Dalek-operator in Doctor Who) comes back from the café with a cup of coffee and looks at the pedal-bin standing in the middle of the room. He asks if we’re proposing he get inside.

15.50 PM
Bob, myself and Bob’s son David (who’s come along to help out) are standing over on the street again outside the theatre. We’re taking up most of the pavement with our stuff – a massive 1970’s Studer reel-to-reel tape machine, two beautiful 1960s ribbon microphones, a pair of mic-stands, a box of theatre programmes and a slightly warm pint of milk for making the tea. The theatre doors are locked and there’s nobody about to let us in. In less than hour, I’m due back at the rehearsal room to collect the cast and bring them back to a fully laid-out recreation of a 1950s radio studio – the same 1950s radio studio that is currently sitting out on the kerb. Bob seems breezily unfazed by all this in the way only BBC engineers can be – confident that whatever problem arises he can probably fix it. All BBC engineers are like this and it’s very comforting. They genuinely can fix anything, Bob most of all. They’re not like ordinary people and never panic. They are, in fact, Gods.

16.00 PM
Someone finally lets us into the theatre and we wheel in the recording equipment, perched on an inadvisably small wooden trolley. The microphones are gorgeous things. Loaned to us by BBC Radio Derby, they come in two little wooden boxes. They’re Coles 4038 ribbon mics that probably predate BBC Radio Derby’s very existence. As the name suggests they’ve got little metal ribbons inside them that vibrate when sound waves hit them. And basically that’s all there is to them. It’s barn-door engineering. As long as they don’t go rusty, they’ll last forever. There’s nothing to go wrong with them and they sound every bit as crisp, warm and wonderful as they did when they were new. Even though the technology behind them goes back until at least as early as the 1930s, they’re still wonderful microphones and there really is nothing better to record the human voice with. We’re still setting them up on the Y Theatre’s main stage, when (as expected) a film-crew turn up from BBC East Midlands to cover the recording for the news. The cameraman they send over is a freelancer called Mark, who isn’t usually on duty, but is covering some weekend shifts. By coincidence, I was working with him on an entirely different project for the BBC only three days ago and look forward to having a chat with him again, but we don’t get the opportunity. Between now and ten o’clock, I won’t get a chance to leave this room.

16.05 PM
Rob, Emma and the cast turn up unexpectedly. Apparently they finished the rehearsals earlier than they thought they would and so rather than sit around doing nothing, they decided to come over to the theatre on their own. There’s only about 200 yards separating the two buildings, so it didn’t take them long to just nip over the road. Rob unpacks some stuff from the boot of his car and proudly shows me a rather worrying collection of WW2 rifles he’s brought along to help with some the live sound effects. He had wanted to fire a small starting pistol to convey the sounds of gunshots at various points in the drama, but I had to tactfully veto that one. He has, however, brought along a grenade and a riding-crop. I think it’s best not to ask.

16.10 PM
The dustbin has been filled up with water ready for its starring rôle as ‘hull of a big metal boat in some choppy waters.’ The table has been laid out with all the props needed to make the live effects and the rest of the effects are ready to be played in from disc. The actors go off to the dressing room and although I’m running round all over the place, it’s all looking quite good.

About thirty seconds later:
The dustbin is out. Within moments of it being filled up from the tap, a pool of water started to appear underneath it, soaking into the wooden stage. Clearly the bin had sprung a leak somewhere. There’s now a steady stream of water making its way slowly across the stage toward a maze of wires and microphones at the actors’ feet. Many of the cables are live and the microphone stand is totally un-insulated. Aware that electrocuting your cast is generally frowned upon in radio, I grab hold of the wet dustbin by its handles and jump into the orchestra pit with a splash. Nobody seems impressed with my act of extreme bravery, so I climb back onto the stage feeling a bit deflated and use some pristine white towels to mop up the spilt water. We now have no means of creating water effects for the drama (and we’re also out of towels).

17.00 (ish)
We’re supposed to be doing our technical run. We’ve only got about two hours to do it in, but we’re running late. I allow the BBC East Midlands crew far too long to interview the cast and by the time we begin the technicals, we’re cutting it really fine. We’ll be okay, as long as nothing at all goes wrong between now and 19.00.

Two minutes later:
Something goes wrong. The first sound effect is cued up and it’s not what we were expecting it to be. Both Bob and myself have spent months plotting all the effects out and there are several pages of very intricate spreadsheets to help cue up each of the two effects discs in the right order and at the right time. However, it doesn’t help. Something fairly fundamental has gone wrong with the numbering. The first track isn’t numbered properly and throws everything else out of sync. Bob now has to do some very quick arithmetic in his head to work out the true track number of each track before he can play it. Essentially, the pages of planned track listings now offer little more than a rough guide and it’s nigh on impossible to get a complex scene right first time. We’re rehearsing a scene in which a helicopter takes offer under heavy machine gun fire. Bob’s got to change the track maybe two or three times on both discs every ten seconds. Every time we run the scene again from the top, I hold my breath and hope the right sound comes in first time. It doesn’t. The cast wait for the sound of door softly clicking shut. Instead there’s a machine gun blasting away a plate-glass window. We have to go from the top again. We’ve barely got through two scenes, but the audience are already waiting outside and, one way or another, the curtain will go up in a very few minutes time. There’s nothing for it, we’ll just have to wing it. Rob very bravely volunteers to take over all the live foley effects (without any kind of rehearsal), giving me the chance to sit at the mixing desk with Bob, in the hope that I can help him keep things on the rails at his end. There’s no good reason for this not to work, but then there was no particularly good reason for the technical run to crash like it did either.

19.15 PM
We start 15 minutes late, which isn’t bad considering. I have the theatre’s technical manager (Sheraton) on my left and Bob on my right. All the effects cues are labelled either A1, A2, A3, A4 etc or B1, B2, B3, B4 etc, signifying whether or not the effect is on disc A or disc B. Disc A is mainly background effects and disc B is mainly spot effects. As a scene starts, I check Bob’s ready with disc A and that disc B is cued up. I give Bob the nod and he fades up the first effect. Then I signal Sheraton to flash the green cue-light to the actors so that they know to start the scene. At the right point, disc B is then faded up. Maybe A is then faded down, then up again, then B up and A down or whatever is needed until we reach the end of the scene when we pause and reset. Then we start on the next scene. Bob is nothing short of amazing. I don’t think anyone realises just how much concentration and precision we’re asking of him and he’s doing all this whilst simultaneously checking the levels and monitoring the tape recorder that’s taping the whole thing.

20.00 (ish)
We break for the interval – exhausted.

20.20 PM
We begin recording part 2. And do you know what? It’s going okay. It’s fine. It’s more than fine. Okay, there are a few retakes – more than a few actually. And every time someone gets a line wrong (not very often) or a sound effect doesn’t work (very often), I have to stop the scene. However, the audience don’t really mind. In fact, they seem to look forward to those bits most of all. The atmosphere of a live radio recording with all of its bumps and excitements is, after all, what they came to see. When things do go wrong, Tim becomes a fantastic MC shouting about the productions inefficiencies with mock outrage (I hope it’s mock outrage) and the audience love it. You’ll hear a lot of this in the outtakes compilation that is included with the new audiobook. The sheer unwavering professionalism of Rob, Emma, Bob and the whole cast holds everything together and we make it to the end. And more than that, it’s actually good – really good. The boats don’t make any sound in the water, because the dustbin’s gone and there’s only so much Rob can do with a wet tea-towel and a plank of wood, but we can always add splashes in post-production (and we do).

21.30 PM
It’s all over. We’ve done all the pickups and the audience have filed out. I’ve got until ten to pack up everything and somehow figure out a way to get home with all the stuff. We can’t record anything further now anyway, even if we wanted to. A vital component of the tape-recorder has now actually melted in the heat and glued itself to the mastertape, which now has to be chiselled away from the machine. Amazingly, it makes no difference to the recording itself and when Bob plays it back 24 hours later, both tape and machine sound absolutely fine. At the back of the stage, the actors are in the dressing-rooms getting changed. Much to my surprise, after everything I’ve put them through, they all say that they want to do another Dick Barton as soon as possible. And in spite of all the stress and work; in spite of everything that went wrong, I want to do it again too. I’ve loved working with these people. I love how Tim made everybody laugh when they might otherwise have gone home. I love Terry Molloy and Nick Scovell, being so impossibly nice all the time and giving us characters so utterly different to what I was expecting. I love that David Benson was quite prepared to play an entire scene by talking to himself with three different voices as three different characters. I love that Lisa Bowerman didn’t tell me until afterwards that the skirt we provided for her had a bloody big hole in the side. I desperately want to do it all again, because even when so much was so very far from smooth, the cast and crew was never anything less than perfect. The characters were perfect; the atmosphere was perfect. And it was just such bloody fun to do. Please let us do a series.

Dick Barton Live is available to download from AudioGO now!

Lucy Fleming Interview

26 Sep

Lucy FlemingTo celebrate the release of the new James Bond audiobooks we caught up with Ian Fleming’s niece, the lovely Lucy Fleming, about 007 and the books. 

Do you have a favourite Bond novel, and if so, why is it your favourite?

I have several favourite Bond novels:

Casino Royale because it was Ian’s first book and where James Bond began- and the great car chase.

I like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service because it is such a great story and is exciting and fun- with great skiing chases.

Also Goldfinger  because it was where we first meet Blofeld.

What makes the character of James Bond such an enduring one?

I don’t know. But people love him- he is fun and, like George and the Dragon, he slays the villain, gets the girl and does it all for King and Country.

How would you feel if you met James Bond?

OOOH. Very excited, very, very curious and quite apprehensive…he would love me –of course.

The similarities between James Bond and your uncle have often been made. Do you personally see anything of your uncle in James Bond?

There are similarities between Ian and Bond. Mostly the things  that happen to Bond or the things he enjoys doing- cars and driving, swimming, skiing, golf, gambling, playing bridge (Moonraker) and his appreciation of beautiful girls.

Of course Ian used his experience in Naval Intelligence during the Second World War to  give the stories authenticity too.

What do you think your uncle would have made of the continued success of his character and books?

I imagine he would be very amused with the continuing success of the books and the films- and very proud.

It must have been fascinating to produce the audiobooks which such a superb array of British actors; who in particular did you enjoy working with and why?

I particularly enjoyed working with all of the actors during the recordings. It was a fascinating and humbling experience because it takes a huge skill to read any book  for audio– let alone the Bond books with all the different and familiar characters, accents and places. All the actors brought their own interpretation of Bond, M, Moneypenny, the girl and the Villain in different ways and they all made Ian’s prose come off the page wonderfully.

Each of Ian Fleming’s books is read by a different actor, how did you decide which actors were suited to particular books?

It was fun doing the “casting” as it were. David Tennant was an obvious reader for OHMSS because of his wonderful  Scottish voice. Bill Nighy was brilliant at all the nasty characters  and Gala Brand in Moonraker. Damian Lewis with his fantastic American accent was  an obvious choice for Diamonds Are Forever.

We were lucky to get Rosamund Pike to read The Spy who Loved Me as she knows Canada where it is mostly set and does the most amazing Canadian accent. And, of course, Martin Jarvis can do any accent so we were thrilled when he tackled all the Japanese in You Only Live Twice.

Did any of them bring a new aspect to Bond for you?

I don’t think they brought a new insight into Bond for me but they did let me hear all Ian’s stories read out personally and refresh my memory of all the different stories. One thing I did notice is how very good Ian’s descriptive writing is.

You can buy Octopussy and The Living Daylights and other stories read by Tom Hiddleston and Lucy Fleming and For Your Eyes Only and other stories read by Samuel West from AudioGO now.

Neil Gaiman Interview

5 Sep
Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman

BBC Radio 4 Extra aired an impressive and star-studded dramatisation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere earlier this year and AudioGO have released it as an audiobook on 5th September. Starring James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, David Harewood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, Anthony Head and Bernard Cribbins among others, it was adapted and directed by Dirk Maggs, the man behind the acclaimed radio adaptations of Douglas Adams’s later Hitchhiker’s novels. It’s a sumptuous, aural masterpiece, a blockbuster for the radio.

Here Neil Gaiman talks about his delight at how this new version turned out, and how it secured such an A-list cast. 

What do you enjoy about audio as a format?

I think what I like best about audio as a format is it allows you to use your imagination. Prose fiction has an enormous advantage in that you’re simply giving words to people and they get to build up whole worlds in their mind. Drama is great because it has real actors. Audio drama is like this fantastic intersection, because the pictures, the special effects, the magic, well it’s as good as you want it to be.

One of my favourite lines in any drama of any kind was from the original ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ radio play, where Arthur turns to Ford and he says “Ford, you’re turning into an infinite number of penguins”; and I love that because it’s something that you can never show, but it’s in your head. The idea of Ford turning into an infinite number of penguins is an amazing thing.

There are moments in ‘Neverwhere’, the audio version, that I absolutely love. One moment that Dirk [Maggs] completely introduced himself, is the moment where [Angel] Islington spreads his wings. Islington didn’t have wings in the television version because I looked at that and went “There is no way I can do this and not make it stupid.” So I didn’t give him wings and thus I didn’t give him wings in the book, as I hadn’t done on TV. I absolutely loved that suddenly he had wings and you could hear the wings unfold.

I thought the sounds were amazing.

Weren’t they absolutely magic?

So having already brought out ‘Neverwhere’ as a book in a visual format, how was it revisiting it for audio? Did you have to make any massive changes with Dirk to bring it to life?

Actually there were very few changes. Dirk sent me his original scripts. He went off, he worked on it. I had a handful of notes, mostly in just distinguishing Mr Croup from Mr Vandemar and a few suggestions. And then suddenly I found myself acting in it, which was rather surprising.

Did you base London Below on your personal experiences of being in London and how you felt when you walked around and explored?

You know the weirdest thing about London Below is that I’d written the TV series before I ever got to do any on-the-ground research. But when I started the novel I got to go location scouting for the TV series, so by the time I wrote the novel I had actually already splashed around in the sewers; I’d climbed places that you’re not meant to climb; I’d gone down into places you’re not meant to go down; I’d been in these amazing locked off places. You know, the Camden Deep Tunnels, all of these fantastic places, but I then got to write about and turn them into, you know, my descriptions in the book I wrote.

There’s an incredible cast for this production. Did you pick the actors, or did this lie with someone else?

The casting of ‘Neverwhere’ began with talking to Heather Larmer and Dirk Maggs. In the beginning I had maybe one suggestion, which was James McAvoy would be a fantastic Richard [Mayhew]. I didn’t know that James McAvoy was the world’s biggest ‘Neverwhere’ fan. I didn’t realise that when James McAvoy was asked by his agent if he was going to be interested in doing this incredibly unlikely little Radio 4 project he was going to jump at it, leap on board with absolute delight and in leaping on board basically drag everybody else on board with him. He and Natalie Dormer just said yes because they love ‘Neverwhere’. And then Christopher Lee turned up, Bernard Cribbins turned up. You know, it’s amazing and wonderful . Anthony Stewart Head. You know Tony Head once turned to me in a lift in the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles and said “You’re Neil Gaiman, we have to do something together one day,” and I said “Yes!” Then he got out of the lift. I love the fact that six/seven years later here we are and he got to do ‘Neverwhere’.

One thing I’d really like to know is if there are any updates on the HBO series of ‘American Gods’?

There’s nothing. We’re waiting right now on the top brass. All I know about the script is it keeps going upstairs. I hear “Okay, so and so liked it and it’s now gone up to their boss!” and so I’m like “Okay” and I keep waiting.

And I will give you a small scoop, which is that I was so enthused by ‘Neverwhere’ audio that I started really missing ‘Neverwhere’ and missing the characters and missing the world; and I sat down and wrote a short story that I’d written two pages of in about 2002 and then stopped. And then I thought “you know, I should finish that story,” so I went and finished a short story called ‘How the Marquis got his Coat Back’. And it actually takes place immediately after ‘Neverwhere’, while Richard is wondering around back in London Above, this is the Marquis who came back to life and the sewer people sold his coat to somebody else. He was not happy. You will get to meet the Shepherds of Shepherds Bush. They’re not very nice.

Terry Pratchett has a species of turtle named after him and Frank Zappa has species of jellyfish. If you could have any animal as a species named after you what would it be?


Why a bat?

I don’t know, I think bats are genuinely magical. There’s something very peculiar about seeing them fly. The times that bats have intersected my life have always been very odd. Including once finding one stuck to the window on a sheet of fly paper and having to figure out a solvent that would dissolve the fly paper to get the bat off. It was an incredibly angry grumpy bat. And I found this lemon solvent. So eventually a bat smelling of lemon, a lemon-scented sticky bat, crawled away very grumpily.

What is more of a commodity, Luck or Magic?

As a commodity Magic has to be a commodity because Luck is something that, I don’t know, I love the idea of a market where you could go and buy Luck, or trade your Luck for somebody else’s. I think probably it would be more like a kind of Lord Dunsany kind of story, in which you get to trade Luck with somebody and people are never certain with the kind of Luck they’ve got. They’re definitely not mutually exclusive.

Because you could say “It would be really lucky right now if I had some Magic. Or it would be magical if I could magic up some Luck.” So it’s kind of hard for me to decide which one would be the best thing to have.

It’s true, but you can say the same thing about sushi. It would be really lucky if I had some sushi, it would be magical if we could magic up some sushi.

Thank you so much for talking to us. We appreciate how busy you are.

You are so welcome. I’m just thrilled that this is actually being commercially released. When it came out nobody knew if it was going to happen.

Purchase Neverwhere from AudioGO as Download or CD and browse our similar titles.

Kate Doyle

Stephen K. Amos Interview

29 Aug
Stephen K. Amos by James Penlidis

Stephen K. Amos by James Penlidis

We have another interview with a great comedian conducted as part of AudioGO‘s sponsorship of The Pleasance Theatre at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013.

We caught up with some of the fantastic Fringe performers who entertained the Edinburgh crowds in a series of exclusive interviews. 

Fringe Festival favourite Stephen K Amos has a BBC Radio 4 series, An Idiot’s Guide, which is available from AudioGO.

What can we expect from your new fringe show? 

“It’s a work in progress — things can only get better.”

How are you enjoying the Fringe at the Pleasance?  

“I’ve been to see some great shows at the Pleasance, and we open a chat show there next week.”

Your show An Idiot’s Guide was a huge success on Radio 4 and now through AudioGO. Are there any plans for another series? 

“Yes, indeed. We are going to record a new series coming out next year.”

How important medium is Radio for comedians? 

“Any medium that has an audience is important, and Radio 4 has a great track record for comedy.”

Your television show featured new and relatively unknown comedians. Was that a deliberate attempt to encourage new comic talent and give them an opportunity? 

“Yes. There is no point just being another show featuring established comics. It’s always great to give up and coming talent the chance to be seen on TV.”

You are a very successful stand-up, as well hosting your own show both on radio and television, but what do you enjoy most? 

“Nothing beats a live stand-up experience.”

What was your worst gig? 

“In the early days it was all a learning curve, and we all make mistakes. Mine are too many to mention!”

Who were your comedy heroes growing up? 

“I never had any comedy heroes. I was not intending on getting into this business at all.”

What do you enjoy watching now?  

“Films. It’s my secret desire to feature in the remake of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

What are your favourite sitcoms? 

Curb Your EnthusiasmRaising Hope and The Middle.”

Who inspired you to get into comedy? 

“Delphine Manley [director of comedy management agency, Beyond Compare].”

What do you have coming up? 

“Two new radio shows and a sitcom in the pipeline.”

Tim Vine Interview

21 Aug

Throughout the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013, which runs from 2 – 26 August, AUDIOGO is proud to be once again sponsoring the Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh, as it presents a rich and diverse schedule of new comedies, dramas, children’s shows and much more besides.

To celebrate our partnership with the Pleasance, we have caught up with some of the fantastic Fringe performers currently entertaining the Edinburgh crowds in a series of exclusive interviews. 

Human pun-machine Tim Vine returns to the Fringe with “The Tim Vine Chat Show” — packed with his trademark silly jokes and the guests’ unforgettable anecdotes. It runs at the Pleasance, Edinburgh, until 26 August. Punslinger by Tim Vine is available from AudioGO.

What can we expect from your fringe show?Tim Vine

“It’s a show where I chat to members of the audience. I call it a chat show. I’m pretty sure it’s a totally new concept.”

How are you enjoying the Fringe at the Pleasance? 

“I’m having a great time although I lost my voice last week and then I found it — it was under my tongue.”

Who were your comedy heroes growing up?

“Kenny Everett, Les Dawson, Frankie Howerd, Tommy Cooper, Phil Silvers, Basil Brush.”

Who do you enjoy watching now? 

“John Archer.”

What is your favourite sitcom?


What inspired you to get into comedy?

“Working in an office!”

What do have coming up?

“I have a book coming out  in October called ‘the Tim Vine Bumper Book of Silliness’. It’s a book about the French Revolution and it’s impact on modern Europe.”

You can purchase a CD of Tim Vine’s Punslinger from AudioGO here.

Luke Evans reads Treasure Island – Interview

16 Aug

Luke Evans Q&A

Earlier this year Luke Evans recorded Treasure Island, as part of AudioGO’s Famous Fiction range. He is a British actor from movies such as Fast & Furious 6, The Three Musketeers and soon to star in the next instalments of The Hobbit. We asked asked him a few questions about his recording of Treasure Island and favourite children’s books.

Luke Evans reading Treasure Island

Luke Evans reading Treasure Island

Had you read Treasure Island as a child?

I had it read to me a very long time ago and I’d seen the movie and loved it.

2. What do you like best about the character of Jim Hawkins?

His sense of adventure, his stealth and his brilliant use of initiative. He knows more than everyone else on the ship.

3. Which character is the most challenging?

Probably Silver. His voice was the hardest to master.

4. What is your favourite part of the story?

I like the scary blind beggar scenes, I can imagine jack being terrified when the man grabbed his arm.

5. If you were acting in Treasure Island, which character would you like to portray?

I think I’d like to portray Long John Silver. He’s the legendary pirate. And I love parrots.

6. What’s your favourite children’s book?

Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven books. I used to listen to the audiobooks while on rainy caravanning holidays in Tenby when I was a kid.

Luke Evans reads Treasure Island is available on CD and Download from AudioGO.

The Bigger Picture – Marcus Brigstocke

16 Jul
Marcus Brigstocke  Wednesday 13th March 2013 @ Photography Studio © Copyright Huw Jennings

Marcus Brigstocke Wednesday 13th March 2013 @ Photography Studio © Copyright Huw Jennings

Comedian and satirist Marcus Brigstocke has become a member of the British comedy establishment after a career that has traversed radio, television, film, theatre and print.

BBC Radio 4 has become somewhat of a second home to Marcus with regular appearances on I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, The Now Show, Just A Minute and Giles Wemmbley-Hogg Goes Off.  A satirical comic who frequently tackles the big issues, Marcus’ book God Collar, based on his award-winning Edinburgh show took a scathing look at modern faith.  Marcus speaks to Paul Blezard about life after atheism.

Marcus Brigstocke joins Paul Belzard at the Hay Literary Festival 2013 to talk about his new satirical show The Brig Society and writing his new stand-up show, provisionally titled Je M’accuse ( I am Marcus), which will see the wreckage of his personal life laid out before live audiences.

Browse Marcus Brigstocke audio

Reading the voice

15 Jul

Zoe CharpZoë Sharp is the author of the highly acclaimed crime thriller series featuring her ex-Special Forces turned bodyguard heroine, Charlie Fox.

I’ve always loved radio dramas. The dashing strains of ‘Coronation Scot’ by Vivian Ellis heralding another thrilling adventure for the debonair Paul Temple and his wife Steve. Audiobooks were a natural progression for me. Long car journeys pass so much more pleasurably when I have a friendly voice reading to me along the way—not to mention keeping me awake behind the wheel!

As a writer, I find audiobooks fascinating. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received—and one I always pass on—was to read my own work out loud during the editing process. Nothing else shows up awkward construction, clunky sentences, or passages of description just that bit too long, quite like hearing the written word spoken.

Better still is to get someone else to read my work back to me. After all, as the author I know where the pauses and the emphasis should go. I write with a certain rhythm in my head and I try to put the words on the page in such a way that people are coaxed into that same rhythm when they read.

For me, that rhythm is what creates a writer’s unique voice—that instant bond with the reader. When I pick up a book by a new-to-me author, I know by the time I’m halfway down the first page whether I’m going to enjoy reading that author’s work. Something about that first sentence, the shape of the pauses, the way the words roll me into the story. Because for me it’s all down to the writer’s voice.

So, every time I receive a copy of one of my new audiobook recordings I listen to it all the way through, just once. There’s no vanity involved in this. Indeed, most writers will tell you hearing their own work is a form of torture. But it allows me to see if my voice still comes through. And, of course, at the same time I get to hear the wonderful interpretations that the narrator—in my case the talented Claire Corbett—have brought to the story.

Zoë Sharp

Browse Zoë’s audiobooks

The story of Famous Fiction

11 Jul

The second instalment of our Famous Fiction is about to hit the shelves and we have some real goodies in store for you!

Famous Fiction

I have to confess that working on this series has been anything but a chore.  Finding fantastic readers to tackle these brilliant abridged children’s classics is one of the most fun aspects of creating an audiobook: matching the perfect voice to a particular story.

The process always starts with the story or book and working out who is telling the story.  Is the person whose story it is female or male?  Of course there isn’t always a first person narrator and in those cases other things need to be taken into consideration.  What is the story about?  What kind of listener is going to be interested in it?  Usually those questions will tease out an idea of whether the story is best suited to a male or female voice.

The next big question is what type of voice should tell the story.  Some stories need the voice of a young person, while others might need something with a particularly creepy tone of voice, or maybe it needs a narrator with a special accent.  Once all these elements have been identified, then comes the exciting part of creating a wish-list of people to approach and the nerve-wracking part of waiting to hear if they can record the book.  Luckily, with this Famous Fiction range, we didn’t have to wait long to hear from those we approached.

The first voice-to-story ‘marriage’ in this Famous Fiction series was that of Dominic Cooper reading Oliver Twist.  I’d seen Dominic on stage when he was in The History Boys, as well as his more recent performances in The Duchess and Tamara Drewe.  He is fantastic at getting under the skin of the characters he portrays and when I found out he was a Londoner by birth I knew he would be perfect for this urban classic.  I knew he would have some fun in portraying not only Oliver, but also Fagin and his gang.

I was thrilled when Gemma Arterton agreed to read both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass.  Not only is she a hugely talented actress with great range, but she has captured the precociousness of Alice perfectly as she finds herself surrounded by the most dazzling array of characters.

Well-known for her recent role in Downton Abbey, Elizabeth McGovern was the perfect choice for Little Women.  Her accent works superbly with the North American setting of this story about the March sisters and their domestic adventures as they try to overcome poverty and find friendship and love along the way.

When it came to The Jungle Book, I knew we needed someone who could capture not only the excitement of the story, but also all the light-heartedness of the different animals who appear in the story.  Who better to take this on but impressionist, comedian and actor, Alistair McGowan.  His recording of The Jungle Book brings Rudyard Kipling’s world to life in the most entertaining way.

I hope you enjoyed listening to them as much as we enjoyed recording them!

Alex Arlango, Commissioning Editor

The Brig Society

8 Jul

The Brig Society

As Lord Kitchener famously said, ‘You’re sure this big moustache won’t make me look silly on the poster?’ That, and ‘You. Your country needs you.’  Indeed it does, and in that spirit you can now volunteer to be part of The Brig Society. The first three participants win a hospital (2nd place has to run RBS).

We were asked to step up, volunteer and do more to get the country through these testing times. So I did my bit. If the government want more from us then more is what they will get. If we enjoy it we may decide to take over the whole thing. In the meantime I have taken on 6 voluntary positions allocated to me by Maureen from Volunteer Services down at the local library. I am running a prison, becoming a food czar, being a fashion icon (obviously), opening a hospital, taking over a rail network and I’ve agreed to be the king of Scotland (I’m sure they’ll be thrilled).

A little over 10 years ago I became the ‘Ranter In Chief’ on The Now Show for BBC Radio 4. It’s been fun – for me. Maybe less so for those who have been the subject of my ire. BT Broadband had a tough old time of it. David Blaine left the UK in tears. The three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – took a fearsome mauling and the Climate Change / Science Dodgers have been slapped around the ring more than once. Not to mention the politicians who so often present themselves for a pasting. The Now Show opened the cage and I leapt forth snarling and cross, but this year I have been allowed to go further and explore why it is that so many of the things I’ve rammed my head against over the years are so difficult to manage. Could it be that running things, taking responsibility and daring to get involved is harder than it looks?

In these recordings I am trying to explore why this stuff is so very difficult to get right and the results are surprising. Funny, outrageous and infuriating but always surprising. I had alongside me some of the best radio writing talent there is, an astonishingly brilliant producer (who I’ve made 5 series of ‘Giles Wemmbley Hogg Goes Off…’ with) and the perfect cast – Margaret Cabourn-Smith, William Andrews and Rufus Jones. If their voices are not ones you recognize then we’ve won. We asked them to come and play precisely because they can go anywhere and do anything with their voices and the recordings were hilarious. What you can hear is just a fraction of what we would have liked to broadcast.

I really hope you enjoy these recordings. I am dead proud of this stuff. It’s been a massive undertaking to create my own show. Anyone who saw one of the 100 or more Brig Society tour dates I did in preparation for this will already know that the material is very funny and the ire is delivered with passion and verve but in these shows we’ve been able to do brilliant sketches alongside my stand-up. Comedy doesn’t always lend itself to nuance and complexity but that’s what I’ve tried to bring to The Brig Society. Enjoy…

Marcus Brigstocke

Buy The Brig Society from AudioGO.