Big Finish Review: Adam Adamant Lives! Vol 1 - A Vintage Year for Scoundrels
Adam Adamant, exuberant Edwardian adventurer and the archetype of chivalry, returns in an audio adaptation of Adam Adamant Lives! Blake Ritson stars as the man out of his time, transported to the 1960s where he continues to fight crime and quash dastardly plans in the name of the crown.
Written by Guy Adams and directed by Nicholas Briggs, Volume 1 of Adam Adamant Lives! is available until February 29th 2020 exclusively from the Big Finish website. Read the synopsis below:
1966. A tatty, broken man shuffling down the street…
Bizarre fantasies of another life as an Edwardian adventurer fill his head. A life as… Adam Adamant!
And to his rescue comes history enthusiast and would-be novelist Georgina Jones.
What is This Place?
As Adam recovers in hospital, sinister underworld forces are at work. Perhaps Georgina Jones and her friends could do with the unexpected help of an anachronistic hero.
Death Has a Thousand Faces
When a sugar-coated corpse is discovered, Adam Adamant can't resist looking into such a bizarre death. Journeying to Blackpool with Georgina Jones, he uncovers a suitably diabolical plot while discovering the hidden talents of Punch and Judy man William E Simms.
Georgina Jones Dies!
Adam Adamant, Georgina Jones and William E Simms make a fine crime-fighting trio. It seems as though their adventures will never end. Until Inspector Clemens arrives on the scene with some truly devastating news...
What is This Place?
Blake Ritson is rather sublime as the eponymous hero. He embodies the role of bastion of Britannia and defender of the realm. He pulls listeners in with the invigorating thrill of adventure and excitement, while also capturing a tautly psychological side to the character.
Adam Adamant, in being drawn decades into the future from the turn of the century, attempts to purge his inner demons, escape death and continue to fight the good fight against all manner of villains. With his dashing grin and clean-cut dress, he is very much act first and worry about the consequences later.
Yet there is genuine threat and an undertone of horror, making this not simply the pure, uber-upbeat adventure series it may appear to be on the tin: Adamant’s wife disappeared soon after they were married, drug thieves roam the streets of London, and he is haunted by the anarchist figure known only as the Face.
Key themes of displacement and belonging, homophobia and the struggle to make a gay relationship work in the 1960s – while also keeping your job as a doctor, and as a woman – help to expand the setup of the series beyond farce or satire with meaningful human concerns.
The first episode is all about things slotting into place, introducing characters and putting down the initial building blocks for the rest of the series. Milly Thomas as Georgina Jones, for example, is there in the episode, but the series is yet to properly establish the dynamic between her and Adamant.
Death Has a Thousand Faces
Episode two introduces Guy Adams as William E Simms to complete the trio of protagonists. The episode sees Adamant and Georgina Jones working together as private investigators, depicting the fun and excitement of the chase while upholding the noble endeavour of justice.
Adams, as writer, shifts the timeline along from the opener and presents Adamant as having had some time to acclimatise to being in a new era. The fish-out-of-water elements are not overdone, though – depending on one’s sensibility – could indeed be increased, for they appear only briefly here. Still, Adamant – who, fantastically, looks like “Jack the Ripper looking forward to a night at the opera” – is entertaining as the dashing leading man.
In terms of plot, the discovery of a sugar-coated corpse takes Adamant and Georgina to Blackpool, where the detective plot proves fairly procedural: more of an opportunity to showcase Adam Adamant’s skills and investigative audacity than to stretch the bounds of detective fiction. The pair encounters the florid and theatrical Simms (who is chock full of Shakespeare and acting references), a self-made Punch and Judy puppeteer who completes the trio nicely.
There are more moments that delve into the backstory and motivations of Adamant and Georgina; their dynamic is unique, being not romantic (befitting the adaptation moving from the 1960s to the 2020s), but instead intellectual and collegial – Milly Thomas’ forthright and driven Georgina is key to this interplay. Time is also given to a personal story arc – namely the Face’s pestering of Adamant, made all the more chilling due to that character also being played by Ritson.
Georgina Jones Dies!
By the third story, the trio of Adamant, Georgina and Simms has been brought together at last. The series has been building to this point, and therefore Georgina Jones Dies! holds the most promise of the three episodes – let’s see if it is up to the task.
Ritson makes playing Adamant sound very easy. His performance indicates an underlying intelligence that is subtle and with a close emotional reality, but also boisterous and excitable when required. Sensitivity and quiet are contrasted with triumph and exuberance. His refined qualities are a pleasant counterbalance to the rough-edged supporting characters populating the rest of the story.
Georgina is unfortunately absent for almost all of the story, with Adamant being accused of her murder. This being only the third episode – of the first volume – the emotional connection the audience holds with Georgina is not quite as strong as it should be for us to feel her (apparent) loss.
The ongoing battle between Adamant and the Face, revisited here, comes to the fore as a psychological battle within Adamant’s mind. The malevolent glee of the Face and the verbal sparring with Adamant shows Ritson’s true technical scope as an actor – he is the highlight of this series.
Despite Simms’ understated wit (which fits Adams well) and a meaningful exploration of theme (dealing with loss, judging character, the nature of good and evil), the episode is lesser off for not including more interaction between the three characters. The reveal at the end, however, is a fantastic lead-in to the next volume.
In the behind the scenes interviews, writer Guy Adams and director Nicholas Briggs discuss the adaptation/reinvention process of the existing property – which they frame as familiar, but also a significant departure from the original television series. They discuss changes made to story in accordance with this being a contemporary adaptation – such as women’s role in the drama and the awareness and acceptance of gay relationships.
One of the most poignant moments in the extras is Adams’ mention of mental health themes being woven into the episodes and becoming particularly prominent in the third. There is also much admiration of Blake Ritson’s leading performance, work ethic and talent.
This audio interpretation of Adam Adamant Lives! is possibly best listened to by fans of or those familiar with the original series. For those unfamiliar with the series, the three characters gradually grow on you as the series progresses, with Blake Ritson the clear highlight.
Unfortunately, however, this volume does not give enough of the three crime fighters working together; hopefully this is where the next volume (scheduled for release in August) will pick up and expand upon the introductory work done here.