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The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, adapted by Barnaby Edwards

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Buy The Phantom of the Opera from Big Finish Productions

Big Finish Productions, 2007
 
This highly entertaining version of the Leroux classic worked first and foremost as a chase narrative, in which Raoul de Chagny (James D'Arcy) tried to find out what had happened to his childhood sweetheart Christine (Helen Goldwyn), and found himself gradually drawn into the underworld, both literal and physical, represented by the the mysterious Persian (Alexander Siddig) and the Phantom (Peter Guinness). Although the story ended happily enough with the two lovers being reuinted, Raoul often found himself unable to cope with what he encountered: the soldierly code of honour that he had learned as an upper-class member of late nineteenth-century Parisian society seemed totally inadequate. He was only saved from certain destruction by a combination of sheer luck and the Phantom's benevolence.
 
Yet Edwards' version was not without its humorous elements, Madame Giry (Anna Massey) acted as the narrator, but sometimes she seemed more interested in peripheral affairs rather than the story itself. She paused on one occasion to choose an English chocolate from the box in front of her, and savoured it lovingly before continuing her tale. On another occasion she looked up the exact meaning of the Persian word for police chief, taking time to thumb through her dictionary. Although the story was clearly worth telling (Madame Giry had an important role in it as the Phantom's servant-cum-confidante), Madame Gir understood that sometimes a little comic relief might come in handy, just to give the listeners a break.
 
Above all, however, this Phantom was a study in obsession. The eponymous central character was prepared to go to any lengths to ensure Christine's loyalty towards him: we only discovered right at the end that this was the result of a deprived childhood, as the Phantom's mother had shown little affection towards her son. In the end, however, even the Phantom understood the limits of his obsession. By contrast Raoul's character never changed; his devotion to Christine was so strong that he could never leave her alone. Perhaps there was no such thing as a 'good' or a 'bad' character in this story, but rather a collection of Jonsonian 'humours' - people driven half-crazy by their obsessions.