The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted by Chris Harrald

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BBC Radio 4, 25 March - 1 April 2011
Conan Doyle's science fiction work came across in Harrald's version as a spectacular tale of heroism in which an ill-matched quartet of explorers - Professor Challenger (David Robb), Lord Roxton (Jamie Glover), Dr. Diana Summerlee (Jasmine Hyde), and journalist Edward Malone (Jonathan Forbes) - travelled to the depths of the Amazon to discover a prehistoric world of dinosaurs and birds, together with a tribe which had voluntarily cut itself off from the world in pursuit of an edenic life.
Needless to say Marilyn Imrie's production had some sharp points to make about the consequences of colonialism: the symbolic violation of an innocent world in the vainglorious pursuit of "progress"; the subjugation of subaltern peoples in the belief that they needed "civilizing"; and the often violent consequences that ensue. Roxton, Challenger and the others had not one iota of understanding of the implications of their quest; they were simply out to consolidate their reputations in their various professional fields. Their aims were apparently fulfilled: Challenger secured acceptance among his scientific peers; Roxton confirmed his reputation as a daredevil explorer; while Malone chronicled his exploits in a best-selling book.
However Imrie suggested that theur achievements were in fact hollow: the lost world still survived, despite their collective endeavours to colonize it. It might have been a dog-eat-dog world, but it retained a prelapsarian innocence denied to most people.
Imrie also approached the tale as a psychological drama comprised of long stretched of first-person narration delivered by the four protagonists as they recorded first-hand their impressions of discovering the lost world. As they did so, they dimly became aware of the importance of establishing relationships with their fellow-explorers and the lost peoples; their experiences taught them a little humility and tolerance, as well as the importance of teamwork for survival.
The adaptation began aggressively, with the explorers so preoccupied with themselves that they had little time to acknowledge the presence of others. However the quest taught them to have a grudging respect for one another. This discovery invested the adaptation with a sense of optimism: character-development was far more significant than enjoying the spoils of colonialism.
The Lost World is the kind of text that radio can do very well, using sound effects to create an alien world rather than expensive CGI technology (as in the cinema). Imrie's production accomplished this task with gusto, creating a piece that sustained my interest throughout.