Thursday, 24 March 2011

DVD Review: Neverwhere

Neverwhere (episodes 1-6), created by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry

Starring: Gary Bakewell, Laura Fraser, Hywel Bennet, Clive Russel, Paterson Joseph.

A collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry seems, at first glance to be a sort of bizarre joke, much less a project that was actually made and screened on TV, before being adapted into both a book and a comic book series. Luckily for us, such a project does exist and was released on DVD six years ago.

I think it's fair to say that there is more evidence of the former's involvement than Lenny Henry's. Neverwhere feels totally like a Gaiman creation from the off, an oddly comforting sensation to one used to the British writers work. Be warned though - the plot is anything but comforting as everyman office worker Richard Mayhew (Bakewell) is transported to a mysterious world beneath London, bizarrely inhabited by living and breathing personifications of several famous tube stops. The plot hangs together fairly loosely, zipping along at a brisk pace without ever being particularly gripping or compelling. Bakewell is never anything less than thoroughly likeable as Richard Mayhew and serves a logical purpose as an entry point for the viewer into the weird and wacky world of Neverwhere. Sadly his co-star Laura Fraser is less impressive, putting in a very bland performance, with the pair lacking in any chemistry whatsoever. Other standouts are Paterson Joseph as the enigmatic Marquis de Carabas and Clive Russel as hilariously blunt Mr. Vandemar. The script is largely excellent and gives the star studded cast a lot to work with, Luckily for the most part they do - there are several laugh out loud lines over the six episodes. Some of the more emotional scenes fall a little flat but Bakewell copes very well with a chilling psychosis sequence.

Sadly the show is let down by absolutely shocking production values, the music and costumes are passable enough but everything else is fairly uninspired, from the cinematography to the props and sound effects. Put it this way - a lot of the time it makes Doctor Who look like Avatar.

Neverwhere is a long way from perfect - Neil Gaiman reportedly wrote the novelization due to a lack of creative control and I think at times it shows. Nevertheless, despite the shoddy special effects and dodgy plot, Neverwhere is actually a very watchable show, with its three hour running time passing very quickly for me. It is not a masterpiece, nor anywhere near Gaiman's best work but is definitely worth a watch (even if it's just for the novelty value of seeing Johnson from Peep Show in a wig)


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