Audio Books Read by UK Actors
Fabulous stage and screen actors reading gloriously fun books. I listened to eight beautifully narrated sound clips by Kate Winslet, Hugh Laurie, Richard Ayoade, Miriam Margolyes, Stephen Fry, Andrew Scott, Chris O’Dowd––and I’ve just drooled over Dan Stevens short reading of Roald Dahl’s famous ‘Boy’. What a selection!
Reviewed by Rachel Smalter Hall for Book Riot way back in 2013 who gushed:
“Rioters, I’m so excited. I just can’t hide it. I’ve been holding my breath to share this with you for weeks! The new upswing in audiobook publishing has sent lots of publishers to their backlist to record beloved classics, and one of my favorite projects in this vein is from Penguin Audio, who just released several Roald Dahl audiobooks in July and will release several more this September. The series features some of the UK’s best known screen and stage actors. Here are sound clips from eight of the narrations that have got me squealing like a thirteen-year-old at a slumber party.”
I SAY IT’LL MAKE YOUR EARS HAPPY––SMILES GUARANTEED
TAP ON EACH INDIVIDUAL TEASER WHICH I HAVE CAREFULLY SELECTED FOR YOU FROM A LOVINGLY CURATED ROALD DAHL SOUNDCLOUD PLAYLIST
Kate Winslet reads excerpt ‘Matilda’
Richard Ayoade reads excerpt ‘The Twits’
Chris O’Dowd reads excerpt ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’
Dan Stevens reads excerpt ‘Boy’
Stephen Fry reads excerpt ‘The Enormous Crocodile’
Hugh Laurie reads excerpt ‘The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me’
Miriam Margolyes reads excerpt ‘Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts’
Andrew Scott reads excerpt ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’
I found their voices soothing, hypnotic and hilariously infectious. What more can be said except ENJOY! ♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
I do reviews not advertisements but––Thanks to Penguin Books Ltd and Book Riot who say “Sign up for our newsletter to have the best of Book Riot delivered straight to your inbox every two weeks. No spam. We promise. To keep up with Book Riot on a daily basis, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, , subscribe to the Book Riot podcast in iTunes or via RSS. So much bookish goodness––all day, every day.”
Ioan Gruffudd Stars in ‘Harrow’ Forensic Drama Series
Actor Ioan Gruffudd stars as the boat-dwelling Dr Daniel Harrow in the new TV forensic drama series ‘Harrow’ filmed in Brisbane, Australia. The goal for this intellectual forensic drama, featuring an unorthodox and edgy forensic pathologist who lives aboard an untidy boat on the Brisbane River, was achieved by the combined talents of ABC Studios International and Hoodlum Entertainment.
Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd, whose recent screen credits include movie ‘Fantastic Four’, TV series ‘Liar’, ‘Forever’ and earlier ‘Hornblower’, is now 44 and says he has more life experience to get under the skin of somebody like the flawed, smart and sarcastic Dr Harrow. Ioan, who also filmed ‘San Andreas’ in Queensland, fell in love with Brisbane, swimming with dolphins, attending theatre productions and an Ashes test cricket match at the Gabba stadium which unfortunately ended with treatment in hospital for heat stroke.
Leigh McGrath, executive producer of the 10-episode season of ‘Harrow’, says “Brisbane has got the tropical heat and humidity which I think adds a different feel to this forensic drama. Normally they are cold, they are Scandi noir, whereas we went the opposite.”
To quote The Australian newspaper journalist Justin Burke “The pilot episode presents an exquisite personal test for Harrow: does he quit his career and sail to Bora Bora as promised with his troubled, thieving, drug-addicted daughter? Or does he heed the professional challenge of grieving father Bruce Reimers (Gary Sweet), who is begging Harrow to reopen the investigation into his daughter Olivia’s death?”
“In addition to the procedural, crime-of-the-week element of the show, there is an overarching mystery that we are presented with in the opening scenes. Someone is seen dusting a body with concrete and throwing it off a small boat into the Brisbane River in the middle of the night. Who and why will be revealed in good time.”
If you click Ioan’s name (further on) you will see video footage of ‘Harrow’ filmed around inner Brisbane. Dr Harrow, a senior medical examiner, is based in the Queensland Institute of Forensic Medicine which in real life is the heritage-listed Brisbane Dental College near City Hall. Postmortems are not as easy on the eye as handsome Ioan Gruffudd.
This series is like reading a crime book with my home town in the background, I love picking out familiar landmarks and wondering how the film crew recreated a gruesome scene. The Brisbane River (Maiwar) stars but there are several familiar supporting actors to spice things up, e.g. Anna Lise Phillips, Remy Hii and Robyn Malcolm.
Keri Lee, boss of Disney’s ABC Studios Intl, is negotiating with global networks so hopefully this major drama series will be made internationally available. Meanwhile Australian viewers can watch ‘Harrow’ on ABC1 on Fridays 8.30pm 2018 or all complete episodes on iView.
Well worth watching! And Season Two hit Australian screens in February 2021.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Assassin and the Actress ‘Reckoning: A Memoir’
A highly charged and deeply honest memoir, ‘Reckoning’ combines research into the life of assassin and Polish World War II survivor Zbigniew Szubanski , father of Australian actress Magda Szubanski, and Magda herself as she struggles to come to terms with her father’s legacy and forge her own career within the world of television and movies. This absorbing, eloquently written book contains remarkable revelations of wartime espionage, emotional family ties and facing the truth, and I was enthralled to the very last page.
First published in 2016, ‘Reckoning’ is Magda’s debut novel, and courageously written. I must admit my initial thoughts were ‘Wow, she’s brave putting that in writing’ but it made me love this book even more. Definitely a five-star read! Magda relates one of those true stories from childhood to adulthood which hits the right cord with just about everyone. We’ve had similar feelings and domestic issues and career changes and sexuality debates and, yes, sadly, the father we got to understand a little too late.
‘Reckoning’ has gone on to bigger things but here’s the first results:
Winner Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award, 2016
Winner Book of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016
Winner Biography of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016
Winner Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, 2016
Winner Indie Award for Non-Fiction, 2016
Winner Victorian Community History Award Judges’ Special Prize, 2016
Shortlisted Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016
Shortlisted Dobbie Literary Award, 2016
Shortlisted National Biography Award, 2016
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Magda Szubanski is one of Australia’s best known comedy performers. She lives in Melbourne and began her career in university revues before writing and appearing in a number of comedy shows. Magda created the iconic character of Sharon Strzelecki in ABC-TV series ‘Kath and Kim’. She performs in theatre productions and has acted in movies – notably ‘Babe’ and ‘Babe Pig in the City’ – and currently ‘Three Summers’ directed by Ben Elton and ‘The BBQ’ directed by Stephen Amis.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
“It’s like a luxury hotel in here,” said Penny to Cleo, who was draped across a chair in the lounge room of Pandanus Palms psychiatric hospital, a pink hibiscus tucked behind her ear. They were discussing the merits of combining tropical plants and plush furniture with the plastic chandelier.
“It’s done on movie sets to create an illusion of opulence,” said Cleo. She sat up and stretched her arms. She gave a yelp. “That new guy Tom grabbed me too hard in the final scene last night.”
Penny knew Tom. “I’m sure he didn’t mean to,” she said.
Cleo surveyed the bruises on her arms. She noticed marks on her wrists. “The make-up people forgot to remove my scars.”
Penny was going to change the subject but fortunately Cleo yawned.
“You’re getting tired, dear.” Penny began to gather her things. “I’d better go.”
Cleo rubbed her eyes and blinked rapidly. “Did you see him?”
Penny spun around but there was no-one else in the room. The air was still and heavy with the perfume from a flowering orchid. “Who?”
“The producer. He looked in the window.” Cleo sat stiffly in the chair, staring at the window like an unblinking cat.
Penny readied herself for an outburst. “I’ll buzz for the––” she began.
Suddenly Cleo jumped up and ran to the window.
“I won’t go back into his hell-hole of a studio.” She tugged frantically at the heavy, brocade curtains. Once closed, the dimness appeared to satisfy her but she paced up and down with clenched fists. “He was checking the spot where the stunt man fell. They don’t know why he toppled out the window. It wasn’t in the rehearsal script.”
She went to the curtains and peeked out. “Thank God, he’s gone.”
Penny leaned over and pushed the nurse’s call buzzer.
“You can buzz all you want, the waiter service is atrocious,” said Cleo. “When they do come, they hold you down and force you to eat.”
She started to twirl around the room, knocking into furniture.
Her medication is wearing off fast, thought Penny. She felt unsafe. “Stop it!” she shouted.
Cleo sat down on the floor, a dazed look on her face. “It’s dark in here,” she said, wrapping her arms around her ribcage. “This is what that lady in the buckled up jacket does.”
Penny went to the window and opened the curtains. Summer sunlight flooded back into the room. Cleo winced. “That spotlight is too bright.”
“I’ll tell the lighting technician,” Penny said. She hurried from the room and saw that the long white hallway was empty. The staff must be at the press conference, she thought.
After straightening a painting with shaking fingers, Penny had an idea and returned to the lounge room.
“The director says the cast can take a break,” she told Cleo.
“About time. Scene after scene and none of them mine. I’m freezing my butt off waiting for my audition cue and it never comes. Boredom and suicide are the same thing.” Cleo again paced the floor.
Penny recognised the first signs of her hourly ritual. Cleo went through the motions of taking an imaginary cigarette from its packet, putting it in her mouth and lighting it. With a noise of disgust, she tossed the cigarette on the carpet. Quickly, she stamped it out. “Have to save oxygen,” she said. “The door shouldn’t be closed. It’s the stunt man’s idea. ‘Get off me,’ I tell him. He knows I don’t like small spaces. The door is made of steel. Hey, HEY, can anyone hear me? This isn’t funny, guys. The sound of nothing is pressing into my ear drums. The silence will squash my head. Let me OUT!”
Penny made cutting actions with her finger across her throat. “The cameras have stopped rolling.”
“I need warm soup,” said Cleo, her teeth chattering. “Where’s the c-catering van?”
“Think about something else, dear,” Penny said, hoping a nurse was on the way.
“Remember when you were little? You said if something went wrong, you’d make-believe. It’s fun to pretend you’re another person. You can be anything you set your mind to.”
“That box room was too strong, it over-powered my mind.” Tears started to form in Cleo’s eyes. “I didn’t want to play a dead person. The box was trying to kill off my character––it wanted to be my coffin.”
“You lasted a lot longer than most people would, given the circumstances.” Penny lead Cleo to a couch and sat with her, gently smoothing her hair. After awhile, two people entered the room, Cleo’s doctor and a new clinical nurse. Penny surreptitiously made the sign of the cross.
The nurse checked Cleo’s pulse then injected her in the middle of a bruise on her upper arm. Cleo pulled back, slowly rubbing her skin. “More pain.”
The nurse pointed to a bluish lesion and said, “I hope you gave as good as you got.”
“One of my better performances,” said Cleo, tossing her head.
With a weak smile, the doctor said, “Ready to meet your fans, Cleo?”
“No.” Cleo turned her back and toyed with a palm frond.
They coaxed her into leaving the room and walked down several corridors until they reached an unmarked door. When it was opened, Penny hugged Cleo and left. She hated to watch that door close and wanted to be out of earshot before it slammed.
In the foyer of the hospital, Penny wondered how far she should carry Cleo’s delusion. The hospital portico was swarming with staff and media representatives.
With one hand on her heart and the other on the door handle, Penny opened the front door.
A reporter pounced.
“What happened on the set of Cleo’s new movie?”
Before Penny could reply, Tom, the psychiatric nurse, ran over and grabbed her arm.
“Come with me, Penelope,” he said. “It’s time for your medication.”
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
- Cleo is a mentally disturbed woman. She talks in riddles and,
due to an apparently traumatic event on a movie set, she cannot
separate fact from fiction. She confuses the Pandanus Palms
psychiatric hospital with a film location. We are lead to believe she
has once tried suicide and that the stunt man may have caused her
- Penny has “adopted” Cleo and calls her “dear”. She cares about
her and understanding her moods but is not able to help in a positive
way. She has her own set of unseen demons.
- Tom is a bit player with an important part. Did he cause the bruising
on Cleo’s arms?
- The setting is a room with lavish décor but Cleo becomes cold and
hungry. Is she reliving an incident or just acting the part?
- Is the box a padded cell or a prop gone wrong?
- Does Cleo see the truth wrapped up in theatrical guise? Is she driven
by revenge to murder? When the “reveal” comes at the end, can we
guess at what was truth and what was the swirling of a delusional
mind, aided and abetted by Penny.
TV Nostalgia M*A*S*H
The Personal System/2 was IBM’s third generation personal computer released over 30 years ago on April 1987. Recognise the actors advertising the product?
The cast of the long-running TV series M*A*S*H set during the Korean war and, if you are old enough, you can surely name their characters.
Alan Alda (Hawkeye), Gary Burghoff (Radar), William Christopher (Father Mulcahy), Jamie Farr (Klinger), Mike Farrell (B.J.), Loretta Swit (Major Margaret Houlihan), Larry Linville (Frank), Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter), Wayne Rogers (Trapper), McLean Stevenson (Colonel Blake), David Ogden Stiers (Charles Emerson Winchester III) and many more.
Larry Gelbart was the man responsible for developing M*A*S*H for television from the 1970 feature film M*A*S*H which was adapted from Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel “MASH: About Three Army Doctors”.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Large Portions of Fast-Paced Comedy
Queensland Theatre Review “Noises Off” QPAC Playhouse Saturday 3 June 2017
“Noises Off” theatre production is loud on laughs.
My first experience of Michael Frayn’s stage play “Noises Off” was in 1983 at Savoy Theatre, London, so I was keen to see how Queensland Theatre would handle a 21st century production in Brisbane. Currently running at QPAC Playhouse, I was already attuned to the chaos about to transpire.
The Queensland Theatre cast cleverly mirror a blemished performance by a supposed theatre troupe in Weston-super-Mare. This play within a play is an hilarious bedroom farce of abundant innuendo, silly mix-ups and a display of Libby Munro’s white underwear. Simon Burke neatly portrays director and libertine Lloyd Dallas with a droll delivery, and Nicki Wendt and Hugh Parker evolve nicely as bemused husband and wife. Cast flexibility is spectacular, especially athletic Ray Chong Nee who channels Roger Tramplemain, and Louise Siversen as spry housekeeper Mrs Clackett.
Strong language crops up but it appears that most dialogue, costumes and props are relatively unchanged, with crafty set design advancing the action behind-the-scenes. Authentic director Sam Strong has handled “Noises Off” with finesse and his cast of nine prove that Brisbane audiences can absorb large portions of fast-paced comedy without losing the plot.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
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