Thursday, 31 August 2017

THE PRISONER VOLUME 02

How to start? I was going to start with one of my semi regular musical interludes but that won’t work any more (thats not to say there WON’T be a musical interlude) But no, the song I had selected is totally inappropriate for the opening salvo of this second volume of reinterpretations of The Prisoner so I had to have a rethink and I will start by tipping my metaphorical hat and raising my real glass to Mr Nicholas Briggs – a true auteur, a visionary who has taken a much loved and much discussed enigma of a source and made it more compelling, more confusing, grander in scale, bigger in ambition whilst remaining utterly respectful to the 1967 original.
And this box set is just that and very very much more. Last year we had volume 1 (review HERE) which introduced us to the world of The Prisoner, let us know how the world of The Village works, added a few Briggsisms (for that is what they are) to make it new and fresh and different and darker and then Volume 2 is released and the rug is pulled completely out from under the listener’s feet as Mr Briggs attempts the seemingly impossible and adapts the episode “Many Happy Returns” to open the set. For those of you unfamiliar this episode sees Number 6 escaping from the Village and getting back to London but the first twenty five minutes or so have pretty much no dialogue at all.
Any how, I get ahead of myself – this is a very different beast to the first more “out there”, more Free For All than Arrival or in Twin Peaks talk more Season three than Season one and two. Nick Briggs is a man with a story to tell, a definite take on McGoohan’s masterpiece and he tells it over four linked stories:

2.1 I Met a Man Today (adapted from Many Happy Returns)
So as I said earlier Mr Briggs begins this set with an adaptation of Many Happy Returns. Beginning with Number Six (Mark Elstob) already having escaped from the Village and back in London hanging around outside his old flat he meets with its new owner Kate Butterworth (Lucy Briggs-Owen) and despite himself begins to trust her and tell her of his time in The Village. Kate is a beautiful character played to perfection by Lucy Briggs-Owen, she is just so real, so relatable, so believable and so genuinely a good person – but in the world of The Prisoner is everything as it seems? Six even visits his old colleagues and is subjected to an interrogation – has he defected? is he a plant? is is all going to end in tears? There is a feeling of fatalistic inevitability about this episode all the way to its utterly crushing last minute or so. Not an obvious choice to open a set but done so well and with so much passion that with hindsight I couldn’t wish for a better opener.

2.2 Project Six (adapted from A, B and C)
VERY loosely adapted from A, B and C. Six believes that he can no longer trust any food or water supplied by the Village and goes on a self enforced hunger strike viewed with glee by the new Number 2 Played by ***REMOVED FOR SPOILERS*** who takes a detached joy in witnessing Six drive himself insane through hunger. This episode is one of those very strange and nightmarish episodes that The Prisoner does very well, the listener really cannot tell what is real and what is an illusion as Six relives incidents that happened to him last series and is given a chance for a final escape from The Village….
If you enjoyed Fall Out from the original series then this will be right up your street – this is a surreal kaleidoscopic nightmare of an episode with a shock ending that I really did not anticipate. This is a brave bold and different take on a TV episode and is as much as anything a mission statement for Briggs take on The Prisoner.

2.3 Hammer into Anvil (adapted from the TV episode of the same title)
A slightly more traditional retelling of a TV episode where Number Six takes a dislike to a particularly nasty and vicious Number 2 (John Heffernan) and proceeds to dismantle him piece by piece. It follows the general plot of the TV episode but the emphasis are different – Six uses Number 26 (Helen Goldwyn) one of Number 2’s trusted aides against him, by making 2 think they are conspiring and that Six has been sent to the Village to assess 2.
A portrait in paranoia in which the world the inhabitants of the Village occupy are used against the Village chairperson. After the mind-bending events of Project Six here we see a strong confident Number 6 using the apparatus of his oppressors to destroy the system from within.

2.4 Living in Harmony (not adapted from the TV episode of the same title)
Difficult difficult episode to even discuss without ruing the myriad surprises, twists and indeed turns that Mr Briggs has written for us. Unfamiliar surroundings, an old friend, a daring plan and a choice pretty much sum it up but that is all you are getting from me. And then it ends, with a statement from Number 6 reaffirming his status as the outsider, the man with the secret never to be told who is learning very quickly how to beat the system from within – or is that just something those in charge want him to think?

There is just so much to praise about this set, the acting, the sound design, the writing, the direction all ooze class, care and attention to detail, the Village is safe in the hands of Big Finish and Nick Briggs and long may number Six remain there.
A definite contender for Big Finish release of the year and an unreserved 10/10.
Oh and before I forget a musical interlude https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJ1tBzH1Cek