Christmas Eve, 2006. The Capital Palace, once a popular
theatre, now stands disused next to a long-abandoned graveyard.
Plans to celebrate the work of a dead playwright in the theatre
draw Sapphire and Steel into a deadly maze from which there
is little hope of escape. In a house where all the clocks
stopped at midnight, Sapphire finds herself at the mercy of
an old woman with a familiar face. And Steel is reunited with
an old ally... but for how long...?
ought to be more careful what I wish for. In my review of
the previous Sapphire & Steel story, The
Surest Poison, I commented that I found the
narrative a little too comprehensible when compared
to the perplexing scripts that P J Hammond used to pen for
the original ATV series. Well, the conclusion to this audio
drama well and truly captures the spirit of Hammond's bewildering
writing! I had to listen to the final few tracks two or three
times before I could even narrow them down to two possible
versions of events. (Highlight the following spoiler if you
wish to read it.) Was Ruby ever really
there, or was she just a product of the same lonely spirit
that caused all the other apparitions? Even now I'm
not sure which one - or both - of these alternatives is the
intention of the author, Nigel Fairs. But that's not really
a criticism: it's good that it got me thinking.
should be criticised is that these plot developments don't
take place until the final episode. The preceding three instalments
are a run-around affair in which Sapphire (Susannah Harker)
and Steel (David Warner) find themselves trapped in a succession
of fictional and/or historical scenarios.
we have the vocal talents of Big Finish stalwarts Nicholas
Briggs and Lisa (Bernice Summerfield) Bowerman to keep
us entertained along the way. Briggs puts in an emotive performance
as Arthur and his forebears, while Bowerman has some wonderfully
bitchy moments as the prim Ruby, a former partner of Steel.
There's more than a hint of jealous tension between her and
his sleeve notes, Fairs indicates that he regards this as
the equivalent of a Sapphire & Steel Christmas special,
complete with songs, pantomime dames, Dickensian characters
and a ghost. His only regret is that he couldn't persuade
cover designer Lee Binding to add a layer of snow to the logo!
Perhaps Binding has a point, because, for all its frivolous
moments, at the end of the day this is a tragic tale rather
than a light-hearted piece.
drama runs a little shorter than usual for a two-disc release
(90 minutes) but it is supplemented by full versions of the
songs written for the production plus some out-takes, which
add more of a festive flavour. Water Like a Stone isn't
perfect, but it's no Christmas turkey either.
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