Monday, 31 October 2016

JAGO & LITEFOOT SERIES 12

What a long six months since Series 11 and all the shenanigans (love that word) that the Master brought to the world of Jago & Litefoot. We were promised that things would never be the same again and unfortunately this was born out by the influence that The Master had in series 11. The following review contains major spoilers for series 11 so if you have not bought it and listened to it already you had better do that now by clicking here  – and I will see you all in four hours or so….
 All caught up? Marvellous – then I will continue.
 Poor Ellie Higson (Lisa Bowerman) the chirpy cockney barmaid who (to quote Encore of the Scorchies “may not make the titles but is vital to the plot”) because in this series Ellie really is vital to the plot, in fact she is the “big bad” – because the Master has tampered with her DNA and reactivated the Vampire gene inside her and now she is on a rampage across Victorian London – CORKS!
 After the grand epic of having the Master as the villain, this is a much more touching, human and emotional set, in fact listening to it from the beginning I really do believe that Jago (Christopher Benjamin) & Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) really do know in their heart of hearts that Ellie is the Vampire that they are looking for but they really don’t want to admit it to themselves. The threats are also more intimate and small scale (apart from the threatened Vampire revolution) in fact they are a lot more fairy tale like in their threat and a lot more disturbing and nightmarish – from the threat of being trapped in a painting forever to the distressing “Flickermen” who do and don’t exist in our world and make their victims the same and also the Vampires and their relentless hunting of the dissenting Vampire families who want to coexist peacefully with humans. But this set is really about Ellie and her relationship with Henry & George and ends not with the traditional cliffhanger to series 13, but a more contemplative scene about, well, I’ll let you hear for yourselves.
 It doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs does it – and compared to some of the previous sets it isn’t – but there are some absolute classic J & L comedy moments especially in the third story where Jago ends up as a school caretaker. I kid you not. But this series really puts the Gothic into the Victoriana to use a musical comparison this is the one where it went “emo” (is that still a thing?)
 This set also has a stellar supporting cast with Ronan Vibert as Mr Ravener, Ronald Pickup as The Old One and Forbes Masson as Kindred to name a few and they all rise to the challenge of the writing being just arch enough to add a level of unreality but not tipping it over into farce.
 As is the tradition with Jago & Litefoot the set is split in to four stories:
 12.1: Picture This by Justin Richards
 A picture is stolen from the mysterious “Scarlet Gallery” and the curator is murdered by a Vampire. But why has this particular picture been stolen? what is the reason? and what is the secret of the gallery? This is a story (as is most of the box set) where the listener knows more than our heroes – the picture that was stolen is the picture that The Master instructed Ellie to steal and Ellie is the thief and the killer. Like all of the stories in this set the opener has an autumnal feeling, a sort of end of term melancholy. I can just imagine the faded glory of the late Victorian era permeating the colours of the gallery, the faded flaking canvasses that are left behind from the victims of the mysterious gallery and a feeling that the fate that befalls the victims is almost better than the world that they live in and the awful truths that our heroes will soon be confronted with…
 12.2: The Flickermen by Paul Morris and Simon Barnard
 Henry Gordon Jago is nothing if not a traditionalist and when his takings are down at the New Regency Theatre due to a new fangled contraption called the “cinema” he decides to take matters in to his own hands and confront the purveyor of the pernicious pass time (couldn’t resist the old alliteration there) but on visiting the fairground Jago & Litefoot get more than they bargained for – they encounter the terrifying Flickermen – but even worse than that they are captured on film looking like buffoons and are about to star in a film called “Two Frightened Gentlemen”.
There is a lot of humour in this story, but also a sense of regret and a lost childhood as Ellie recalls a tale of the Flickermen taking away a childhood friend of hers and another friend being blamed. Tonally very similar to the first story as this is also a story of loss and of a wasted life, but also of progress and the effect it has on Henry as he struggles to accept that the times they are a changing in the world of entertainment.
 12.3: School of Blood by Paul Morris
 Our heroes realise that Ellie is behaving rather oddly and think that they should keep an eye on her. They also get a tip off that the Vampire that they are looking for is hiding out at a local school for girls – Litefoot accidentally takes up the role of a science teacher at the school while Henry takes on the role of school caretaker & part time Hockey referee!
In many ways the most lighthearted episode with an horrific last minute or so that will make your blood run cold. This is a tale of a good Vampire hiding out and attempting to survive without taking a human life and of the Old One (Ronald Pickup) sending his faithful to wipe out the heathen who does not conform to the traditional vampire ways. Its a race against time which leads to a breathtaking finale.
 12.4: Warm Blood by Justin Richards
 With Ellie now under outright suspicion from Jago & Litefoot she leads them to a house which she claims is the hideout of the old one so that they can defeat him. Is Ellie playing a dangerous double game? Can she come back from the darkness? Our heroes are finally confronted with the painting stolen in episode one and have to confront their past deeds but do they have to pay the price for a crime committed out of kindness and a secret kept out of love and friendship? The chickens really come home to roost, the seeds planted way way back in season one episode one “The Bloodless Soldier” (Series 1 available here) now bear fruit and I really don’t think things can ever be the same again. Chirpy cockney Ellie Higson has embraced the darkness and the light is a long long way away….
 Lisa Bowerman as Ellie is a star, this is her box set and her story and she owns it completely – the often comic relief character becomes a fully fledged tragic heroine and not an arch “i vill drink your blloooood” style Vampire a complete and believable decent into the maelstrom of evil for believable reasons (egged on by The Master’s manipulation) and what becomes clear through this set is how much love Jago, Litefoot and Quick have for her – they have confronted terrible evils through the last 12 series or so but never one so close to home and never one they have almost been wilfully blind to because of love and friendship. Will things ever be the same again. Only season 13 will tell.
Not a set for those new to the worlds of Jago & Litefoot but a fantastic rewarding set of stories for the long time listener. A downbeat series but a story that could only be told in this way – without a doubt 10/10.