And here I am, after what feels like an eternity (although it was only four weeks) back in my newly refurbished kitchen – as long time readers will know this is my reviewing position of choice. So firmly ensconced in my comfort zone I embarked on a listen and a review of a most uncomfortable and unexpected episode of Torchwood.
Big Finish have really taken the premise of Torchwood and expanded it beyond Cardiff Bay in the twenty first century looking back on the institutes involvement in all aspects of the twentieth century, but this goes into a very very dark place, this episode takes us back to occupied France during World War 2, it takes us to The Dying Room of the title and to the blackest day for Monsieur LeDuc (Simon Russell Beale) as he is interrogated by SS Officer Grau (Mark Elstob) regarding his brief association with suspected resistance operative Madame Berber (Emma Cuniffe) and her association with Torchwood.
For the most part the story plays out as a two hander as Grau uses more and more extreme techniques to extract the information he needs from LeDuc – it is also told in flashback as the events that led up to LeDuc being imprisoned in The Dying Room being teased out a piece at a time – we learn that Paris is ravaged by a plague that is turning German soldiers into rampaging monsters – its almost like the inner ugliness of what they stand for is becoming real, that the horror that is Fascism is showing its true face. As more of the story is teased out we find out a lot more about both interrogator and victim and just how far each of them will go to protect their version of the truth.
This is an intense listen and pulls no punches, the Nazi’s are portrayed for what they are – no camp silly comedy goose-stepping with outrageous accents – they are cruel, single minded fanatics who see anyone who does not fit their world view as sub normal and expendable, where might is right and subjugation to the rule of the Fuhrer is all. And we are blessed in having Mark Elstob and Simon Russell Beale playing Grau and LeDuc – two actors at the top of their game that make the interrogation utterly convincing, Simon Russell Beale paints LeDuc as a picture of despair, a man who cannot comprehend why he is in this situation, a man who does not have the answers that Grau demands whereas Elstob as Grau is determined, a zealot, a man who will get his answers, any answers and who will win at any cost – the dance they partake in starts slow with the two participants encircling each other and like any good Paso Doble reaches a crescendo of drama and crisis and as the music stops and the dust clears we end up in a place we did not expect when the orchestra struck up.
A triumph of intensity and a masterclass in selling the drama, of drawing the listener in and making them hang on every single word that will stand up to several repeated listens to appreciate the subtleties of the script, the nuances of the direction and the truth of the acting. Another classic 10/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson
This title was released in August 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until October 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.
“In this room everyone learns the truth. And neither of us will be quite the same when we leave.”
Paris, 1940s. The German-occupied city is in a state of turmoil – a plague ravages the streets, turning people into deformed monsters.
The city’s finest hotel is under siege. SS interrogator Grau has come here to find out the truth. Grau has one night to cure the plague and to unmask the mysterious Madame Berber and who she’s really working for. Herr Grau knows all about Project Hermod. And now he’s going to find out all about Torchwood.
Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners
Written By: Lizzie Hopley
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Simon Russell Beale (M LeDuc), Mark Elstob (Herr Grau), Emma Cunniffe (Madame Berber), Aly Cruickshank (Gabriel), David Sibley (The Manager)
Producer James Goss
Script Editor David Llewellyn
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs