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Old 04-06-2014, 12:32 PM   #1
Pervinca Took
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: The Treetops, C/O Great Smials
Posts: 1,793
Pervinca Took is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Phil Dragash's LOTR Readings

I did ask a Downer who has been a Downer much longer than I have if she remembered there ever having been a thread about this, but she didn't recall one. Also, I gather the recordings were still being posted (on YouTube) about a year ago, so had there been a thread here on the topic, I think I'd have seen it. And as the BBC dramatisation threads are also in the Movies subforum, I guess this would be the place to discuss these rather wonderful readings.

First of all, this really is quality stuff, and very sensitively handled. I have listened to a few chapters (there are apparently 48 hours of material in total!) and will just make a few observations for now:

1. As someone who found the films "good in parts" but was unable to really enjoy them as dramatic "wholes" (with the possible exception of FOTR), I am very impressed at how this reading seems to take some of the best aspects of the films (such as the music) and mingle them with a lot that was so brilliant about the BBC dramatisation. I don't know if Phil was familiar with the latter, so this may not even have been a conscious thing. Also, hearing the film music in the background reminded me of the scenes from the film that I did like ... such as Aragorn and Arwen's scene on the bridge near Rivendell. I also found "Into the West" moving on the final chapter, even though the film itself failed to move me at this point.

2. I have heard bits of Rob Inglis's readings, and even seen his one-man-stage-show of LOTR, but I never really felt tempted to buy his version. I like Dragash's narration. He sounds rather like John McAndrew (BBC Pippin), but with subtle elvish tones blended in. I'm particularly reminded of BBC Glorfindel and Elrond.

3. There is so much detail. There are odd slips on words, but nothing to really mar the listening experience. One thing that is wonderful is "background acting" ... it is a full reading of the text, but with "continuous acting" or sounds in the background ... for example, when the narration says that Sam put Frodo in front of him and "tried to encourage him with clumsy words," you hear him doing so in the background.

4. Some thoughts on the individual voices (all by Phil, as far as I can make out). They seem to follow the film in many ways. I have only listened to selected chapters so far, but:

FRODO: Quite similar to the voice of the narrator, but a little higher-pitched. This has the effect (for me) of making him sound rather like BBC Pippin, added to the fact that Phil Dragash's voice reminds me of John McAndrew. (However, if modelled on anyone, it might have been Elijah Wood's voice. As the reading sticks absolutely to canon in words and character development, this is not actually a problem!) This contributes in part to the effect that Phil's Frodo has the sweetness and "youthfulness" (you know what I mean, appearing young even though older and maturer than the other hobbits) of Canon Frodo, which is lacking from Ian Holm's portrayal. On the other hand, I do find myself missing (in a way) the gravity of Ian Holm's gravelly voice as well. This is interesting, because Ian Holm's voice was always very different from Frodo's voice as I imagined it, but it was such an overwhelmingly moving performance that it stuck, even though Book Frodo is described as having a "small voice" in the book and Merry and Pippin are described as having "clear, high hobbit-voices." Ian Holm's tones were so good at sounding the depths of despair and world-weariness, and I do find Phil's Frodo a little too passive at times, just as I found Ian Holm's often far too aggressive. It's great to have two good and very different versions at last. Accent: RP, which matches both radio version and film, although the voice is high and somehow youthful, like Wood's performance or the BBC elves.

SAM: Very canon, quite like William Nighy. Sean Astin used roughly the same accent as Nighy did, as I recall, and the voice Phil uses is similar to both. What I do like is that Frodo and Sam are not forever going for conflict and confrontation as they were in the BBC version, due to a perceived need to make it different and more interesting. Jane Morgan (the older and more experienced of the two BBC directors) said that she took her hat off to Ian Holm and William Nighy, because every one of Frodo and Sam's scenes was more or less the same in the book, but they always made them different. They are both outstanding actors, of course, and both gave virtuoso performances, but I had difficulty thinking of them as a pair. And here's the dichotomy: Phil's much gentler Frodo is more canon, and I enjoy it immensely while also missing the heart-stopping places Ian Holm took this character to. Phil's warm, caring, loyal, brave Sam is wonderful in the Mordor episodes and especially as they climb Mount Doom, and the way Phil incorporates the film music is very moving and appropriate.

MERRY & PIPPIN: The accents follow the film. I know I am showing how the BBC version became canon in its own right to so many of us when I say this, but I wish Phil had gone for RP with these two as well (Tolkien himself advised that all but Sam would speak with received pronunciation, or something very similar). On the other hand, Frodo and Sam's voices follow the film too ... but because they match BBC canon in some ways (even if not for the same characters), I personally liked them very much. And of course it must be very difficult to make each voice sound different, especially if you are doing all the voices yourself!

GANDALF: Very impressed so far. Again, closer to McKellan than Hordern.

GOLLUM: Also very good, and appropriately Gollumish.

MABLUNG and DAMROD: Beautifully done (listened to "Of Herbs And Stewed Rabbit" last night!)

These really are beautiful recordings. I hope I have not caused offence by comparing them with the BBC version, but it is hard for many of us who heard it long ago to do otherwise.

Many thanks for all the labour that went into these, Phil!
"Sit by the firelight's glow; tell us an old tale we know. Tell of adventures strange and rare; never to change, ever to share! Stories we tell will cast their spell, now and for always."

Last edited by Pervinca Took; 04-07-2014 at 07:05 AM.
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