The Road

SFX - - Reviews - Paul Kirkley

RE­LEASED 27 OC­TO­BER 45 min­utes

Broad­caster bbc ra­dio 4 Adapted for Ra­dio 4 from Nigel Kneale’s long-lost 1963 tele­play, The Road makes for a thought­pro­vok­ing Hal­loween chiller.

Lo­cal squire and am­a­teur ghost hunter Sir Tim­o­thy Has­sall (Adrian Scar­bor­ough) is on the trail of a man­i­fes­ta­tion in the woods of Geor­gian Eng­land, when Gideon Cobb (Mark Gatiss) ar­rives from Lon­don, in­tent on de­bunk­ing such pro­vin­cial non­sense through rig­or­ous En­light­en­ment “in­sight and rea­son – not sniff­ing at sor­cerer’s jars”.

It’s a gift of a role for Gatiss. A life­long Kneale su­per­fan who’s also per­fectly at home in a peri­wig, he eats up the rich, cod-Sheri­dan di­a­logue of Toby Hadoke’s skil­ful ra­dio in­ter­pre­ta­tion, glee­fully mock­ing “folly and knav­ery” and rail­ing against “the crutches of petty, tram­melling moral­ity!”

What re­ally dis­tin­guishes The Road from other fire­side ghost sto­ries, though, is its sucker punch of an end­ing – an au­da­cious and hor­ri­fy­ing twist that we won’t spoil. Suf­fice to say, it taps into sev­eral of Kneale’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tions, ex­plor­ing the nexus be­tween folk­lore and science and the ca­pac­ity for trau­matic events to res­onate across the cen­turies.

That Char­lotte Riches’ pro­duc­tion has been able to make use of BBC Ra­dio­phonic Work­shop sound ef­fects from the orig­i­nal broad­cast only adds to the sense of a lost clas­sic re­turned to us from the mists of time.

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