BBC Radio 4 debuted part one of Dirk Maggs' radio adaptation of Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" this past Saturday. The afternoon radio play features James McAvoy as Richard, a young businessman who is swept into the mystical world of London Below after helping an injured girl, Door, voiced by Natalie Dormer. Its impressive cast includes David Harewood, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Cumberbatch and Christopher Lee. Parts two-six will be released this week on BBC Radio 4 Extra and online.
The program isn't simply a book on tape recording. No narrator is employed, so the actors have to relay all the important information and emotions. The sound design paints the atmosphere and world these characters live in. Door's panic in the tunnels is accompanied with water dripping and ominous footsteps while a typical day at Richard's office includes the ring of telephones and the click-clack from a keyboard. It creates an immersive experience for the listener.
"Neverwhere" started as a 1996 BBC series, but Gaiman wasn't happy with the results. "The thing that I had in my head and the thing that we were able to get on the screen fell so far apart that I wrote a novel," he shared in a behind the scenes clip. The novel went on to gain a cult-like following. The BBC approached him with the idea of adapting it into a radio play. A fan of Radio 4, Gaiman agreed. Due to the length of the material, they went beyond a typical hour long show with five additional half hour programs to be released each day of the week, continuing on Monday, March 18.
Gaiman describes London Below as "a place where forgotten time goes." It exists under the streets of London, which the Below inhabitants refer to as London Above. London Below is home to "people who fall through the cracks" such as the homeless and mentally ill. Gaiman wanted to talk about these people in a non-literal way that would interest people who wouldn't normally read about such subjects.