Which is the Best Performance of .......
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
As Christmas approaches thoughts turn to what has to be THE audiobook for this time of year.
If the media is a deciding factor, and you don't want to use our Audio Transfer service, then you may well be restricted to what are good performances but not the best. Again if you must have an Unabridged performance then, though the performances are excellent, the very best performance will not be available to you.
We will take a look at each performance and rate them on pace, passion and pizzazz!
Unabridged - CD
The choice here is between an old favourite Anton Lesser and Miriam Margolyes. After listening to both of these recordings I have to say there is little to separate them in terms of Pace. Both these massively experienced actors perform the book at almost exactly the same pace. Even the durations of the performances come in within 3 mins of each other. Anton Lesser is a trifle more staccato in has attack but both show their classical talents wonderfully well.
Passion is a critical factor in audiobook performance. With a story such as this, and an author such as Dickens, passion has to be controlled very precisely. Again there is little to divide the 2 performances in this regard. Though, it should not be forgotten that one's own experience with a performer can play a significant role. We are very aware that with Anton Lesser, current with over 20 performances in stock, we have a long standing admiration of his work. On the other hand we do have 10 titles performed by Miriam Margolyes and have, to this day, never found any of them less than excellent.
Finally we come to Pizzazz. This most subjective of aspects will be deeply influenced by our experience with the performer. With that aspect in mind we have to give Anton Lesser the edge. His characterisations, through changes in voice and pace, appear smoother and less forced that that of Miriam Margolyes.
Abridged - CD
In this classification there are again only two options. For those of us who want the gist of the story and have only 75 mins to spend, perhaps this is just long enough for younger children, David Jason does en excellent job. Anton Lesser's production is, almost the whole story, coming in at over 2 and a half hours, so a direct comparison is not appropriate. A real comparison with David Jason's performance needs to be with the other abridged performances and unfortunately this one is clearly not the best available. For that we must wait until the cassette versions. But, if time is limited and a packaged CD is required then David Jason's version will suit very well.
Unabridged - Cassette
Just a quick reminder of our Audio Transfer Service - Format is no longer a limit!
Now we come to what may well be the best unabridged performance of this work. Geoffrey Palmer's performance is very good. In terms of his pacing, the duration of the recording comes in at around 3 hours 30 mins and his style is something to be enjoyed. This one is for those of us to want to be entertained for a whole afternoon. Geoffrey Palmer's reading is in equal part characterful, in the best sense, and almost musical in nature. The characters sound very distinctive and he navigates the story like a true maestro. It is only a shame that he performed so few audiobooks. To conclude this is the best recording when an unabridged performance is wanted.
Abridged - Cassette
There is a distinction required between "reading" performances and dramatisation performances. Patrick Stewart's work is rather more a dramatisation than a "reading". This lends the production to being perhaps the most accessible to the youngest of children. This work is less likely to please the adult listener as many of the characters are voiced rather over-emphatically. At just under 2 hours this one will suit the under 10 age group quite well.
Now to the reading performances.
John Gielgud's reading comes in at around 60 mins and would suit those looking for a great reading, with passion and lovely characterisations, all crammed into an hour. There is little time during this production for any pizzazz but it should be remembered that Gielgud's performance is never less than supremely entertaining so this should not be a problem.
Paul Scofield's production is, as always, beautifully rendered. The pace is never slow and time is given to each character. Passion is communicated with exceptional control - a true maestro working at near the top of his game. Pizzazz is not something that this great actor is associated with very often and this is no exception. This work is ideal for those of us who value and enjoy Mr Scofield's brilliant classical tone.
Now we come to a performance that we at Brainfood Audiobooks have come to rate as one of our Stamp of Genius series. After many 1000s of audiobooks there are very few that make it into our top 20 audiobooks ever and this is a long time member of that club.
What is it about this production that makes it so extra-ordinary? Well the pacing is just right. The reading comes in at just under 2 hours and the pacing is never pressured. There is in no way a lull in the performance. Every word is essential. Passion? The deftness of Mr Rossiter's performance is quite sublime. It is a terrible shame that he did so few audio productions as his talent for them is without doubt exceptional. Each character lives from beginning to end. The laughs are there as are the tears in the sadder moments. A great artist at work. Perhaps his comic timing is at the root of why this production is so wonderful? We can only conclude in saying that whenever this performance graces our audio player there is nothing to do but sit back and listen!