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Dark Shadows: The Enemy Within Jul 30

Dark Shadows: The Enemy Within cover

“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…

So, nearly a year ago I pitched a treatment to the producers of Big Finish‘s Dark Shadows audiobooks. It was for a story called The Enemy Within featuring the characters of Cyrus Longworth and Sabrina Jennings. It was commissioned at the beginning of this year, the script written in the winter and the actors recorded in the spring, in both the UK and America. All those performances were edited together, atmospheric music was added, a lovely cover was designed and today the final hour-long drama is released to the world.

Most people in the UK who have heard of Dark Shadows will know it from the Johnny Depp film, but the original show was a soap opera that ran on American television from 1966 to 1971 – though sadly never broadcast on terrestrial TV over here. Unlike other soaps, it took a distinctly supernatural turn and over its run of more than 1,200 episodes featured vampires, werewolves, witches, warlocks, time travel… all produced at a rate of five episodes a week, with the added challenge in the early years of recording as live. It was a brave, innovative and brilliantly mad show and one of the many cult series that Big Finish has brought back to life on audio.

The good news is that you don’t need to be familiar with hundreds of episodes of the TV show to follow the plot of The Enemy Within. We learn about the main characters as they learn about each other, so although they have back stories, you can enjoy the drama (and, dare I say, the comedy) even if you’ve never seen an episode of the show. And if you do know the show… well, there are what I hope are a few treats scattered through the story.

I’m really pleased with the finished play. The cast are great and I’m particularly chuffed to be bringing back Lisa Richards’ Sabrina and Chris Pennock’s Cyrus for the first time since 1970. (Although not exactly this Cyrus – on TV we only met a Parallel Time version. Yes, they did parallel universe plots too!)

Thank you to all involved in bringing this to life, and in particular producers David Darlington and Joseph Lidster for commissioning the story, and to them and script editor Alan Flanagan for their excellent script notes. The play is available on CD for £9.99 and as an immediate download for £7.99, so do go and buy it!

The ongoing adventures of my Coke Zero friends Jul 04

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Edinburgh: Day 4 Aug 07

I trudged through the pretty incessant rain yesterday to register for the gym but their computer was down so I went away again and had a nap.

But then I went back later and registered. Take that, expectations.

The Pleasance gym is, it turns out, pretty nice. On the youthspeak spectrum that runs from “gay” to “sick”, it is definitely sick. Which means good. While gay, entirely erroneously and with more than a whiff of homophobia, means bad. I don’t make the rulez.

A gym man took me on a tour. He showed to the CV area (where I would late resume my exercise – geddit?) and then led me to a room full of giant barbells and giant men.

“I don’t know if you’re interested in these sorts of weights…?”

“Yeah, well, er, y’know… No, no. Just the little ones.”

I did 3.5 miles on the treadmill, accompanied by one of the special running playlists I’ve set up on my iPod. Nerdcore hip hop for the win.

Dashed off to see a show, had a big dinner (the gym had left me on negative calories for the day – I’m counting) and then came back to my room to do some writing.

I’d been pondering a stand-up idea that, if I could pull it off, would be the most awesome piece of stand-up comedy ever written. I may be underselling it. I imagined it would take at least the rest of my time up here, absorb my every waking thought and slowly drive me insane. I pictured Mozart at the end of Amadeus, frantically scribbling to complete my magnum opus, Salieri looking on jealously, wishing he was as funny, but he isn’t because he’s a composer so he should stick to what he knows and butt out.

Finished the first draft in a couple of hours. I should’ve been pleased but I was slightly disappointed. It was too easy to be awesome. It wasn’t even that funny, although that can be an overrated way of measuring comedy. It was just some words, albeit in a spreadsheet. You know you’ve written a complicated script when you had to do it in Excel.

Still, it did mean that I’d got that displacement activity out of the way (hello, blog) and I could get back to the writing I’m supposed to be doing up here.

So I popped out for a drink at midnight and got to bed at 4. Welcome to Edinburgh.

What I learnt today: The most important item I packed was my umbrella. Ella. Ella. Eh. Eh. Eh.

Recommended show: Dan Antopolski, Tom Craine & Nat Luurtsema: Jigsaw

Obligatory plug: I’m in Three Man Roast, 2.35pm weekdays and Saturday 20th at Finnegan’s Wake on Victoria Street – free entry. Also at the Amused Moose Comedy Awards Showcase at the Pleasance Dome, 4pm on August 17th (book online).