Radio 4, June 14, 2014 (and iPlayer for 7 days thereafter)
An inquisitive young man finds out more than he bargains for when he encounters a man whose skin can tell quite a tale…
There’s a real treat in store for Ray Bradbury fans in this second season of Radio 4’s Dangerous Visions strand with this adaptation of a quartet of tales this weekend, and The Martian Chronicles next. The four stories which Sibley has adapted (counting ‘The Illustrated Man’ itself which he uses as a framing device for the other three) are very varied and demonstrate the breadth of Bradbury’s imagination – we travel from a near future where ‘Marionettes, Inc.’ discover problems with the work force, to an all-too-believable present as ‘Zero Hour’ approaches, and from there to outer space where an accident leaves a group of astronauts stranded (‘Kaleidoscope’). As with Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, you don’t want the twists in these spoiled beforehand and some of the bleakness present may surprise you (occasionally by its absence).
There will be moments throughout all four stories where you may think that you’ve heard them before (particularly in ‘Kaleidoscope’ which seems to have inspired elements both of the cult classic Dark Star, and the recent hit Gravity). Bradbury’s tales have, of course, been adapted into other media, but radio is very effective for them, and while Sibley occasionally smooths some of the edges of Bradbury’s prose for modern sensibilities, he never loses their characteristic slant on human nature. The linking passages – featuring Iain Glen as the titular painted person, Jamie Parker as the youth to whom he’s telling the stories and Elaine Claxton as a key part of his past (pictured right) – are creepy in the extreme, and I hope that the ending signifies more such collections are on the way.
Verdict: With assured direction from Gemma Jenkins (particularly noticeable in the ‘Zero Hour’ segment where the children have to be believable for the story to work), this is a strong start to the season. 9/10
Dangerous Visions continues with The Problem with Talitha on Sunday 15 at 12.30 a.m.