Written by Aaron Lamont, Directed by Ursula Burton and David Darlington
In which a chance meeting between Amy Cunningham (Ellayne) and Sabrina Jennings (Richards) in New York City one Christmas Eve leads to revelations about the foretold day that the Son of the Dark Lord (Unsworth) finally escaped from the mind of Cyrus Longworth (Pennock)…
A highly-anticipated release, Deliver Us From Evil takes three ongoing plot strands – the bad blood between Amy and Sabrina; Cyrus’s struggles against “John” (his name for the Son of the Dark Lord); and the reign of terror perpetrated by Alfie Chapman (Kent) and Danielle Roget (Lohrey), aka “The Polaroid Killers” – and weaves them into a largely coherent narrative that fits nicely into the greater tapestry of Dark Shadows lore.
Since her last unsuccessful attempt to rid Cyrus of John, Sabrina Jennings has delved further into the occult and, after a particularly successful session on the ol’ Ouija board, learns that the Apocalypse is night, and only the proper exorcism ritual will prevent this. But can a mere mortal thwart the Dark Lord’s long-laid plans so easily…?
As the disparate plot strands begin intertwining inexorably, Deliver Us From Evil seriously ramps up the tension. After a slightly light-hearted start with Cyrus tormenting John with Christmas carols, things quickly turn unpleasant and largely keep getting darker and darker. There’s a lengthy scene in which Alfie and Danielle engage in their favourite pastime, followed by several tense moments between Cyrus, John and Sabrina Before long, all the dramatis personae have gathered in a motel room in the middle of nowhere, almost as if some malevolent force has been using them as pawns in a vast, cosmic chess game.
Big Finish’s Dark Shadows range has capably proved that two characters can easily sustain an entire script, so imagine what happens when six people (housed within four bodies), all of them damaged goods to varying degrees, end up in the same room! The questions is, how many will leave this room alive, and in which bodies?
It should come as little surprise that everyone involved in Deliver Us From Evil gives it their all. Only Brigid Lohrey arguably lays on the jambon et fromage a tad too thickly with Danielle Roget’s outrageous Fraunch accent, but considering that she’s competing with James Unsworth’s silky tones and Christopher Pennock turned up to eleven, one can hardly fault her for doing whatever it takes not to be overshadowed by such forces of nature. Simon Kent gets to show off many sides to Alfie Chapman – wisely making some stretches of dialogue sound raw and credible rather than homoerotically innuendo-laden (as they could’ve easily been played) – and Lisa Richards gives her best audio performance yet.
A word of caution to newcomers, though – as hard as Deliver Us From Evil tries to make itself “beginner friendly” (even including numerous flashbacks to key scenes from previous releases), it’s a story better suited for longtime listeners. And even for them, all the double-crossing and body-swapping might be a bit hard to keep track of at times!
But by the time the dust settles, not a bit of scenery remains unchewed – and this Dark Shadows fan wouldn’t have it any other way.
Verdict: One hell of a story with a damned fine cast… 8/10
John S. Hall