Torchwood: Dead Plates (Big Finish Review)

The Torchwood monthly range from Big Finish is essential listening, offering wonderful character-centric pieces that expand the core characters of the TV show and the world they live in. And the Bilis Manger stories are probably the cherry on the top of the Torchwood cake. Despite only appearing in the final two episodes of the Doctor Who spin-off’s first series, he made an impression and his continued audio adventures have been a treat every time.

Dead Plates is no different. Murray Melvin continues to deliver a wonderfully dark and twisted performance; every piece of dialogue drips with suave, confident menace. There’s a formula to his stories; taking place in various Twentieth Century locales. we witness the character or characters drawn into his web and he enacts a ruthless, and often bloody, end game. This time it is a group of diners at a seedy Soho restaurant in 1979, that all have dark secrets Bilis is looking to exploit for his own nefarious ends.

David Llewellyn has put together a deliciously dark quasi-supernatural take on a classic Agatha Christie tale. A group of people assembled in a room to solve a murder. The twist in Dead Plates is that Bilis is both the sleuthing detective and the victim. What follows is a fascinating set of tales as we learn about of the characters’ pasts and discover that they all have blood on their hands. They are a despicable bunch, but thanks to the perfecting casting, they are all vibrant and fun, even teetering on likeable at moments.

Hugh Ross is a particular stand out as the audacious Oliver Barleycorn, an artist who has struggled with ambition and his identity as a gay man. Perhaps the most sympathetic of the bad bunch, I found his story and his interplay with Melvin’s Bilis the most engaging part of this twisted tale. Rosa Escoda exudes charm and naivety as ambitious young actress Felicity Templeton, while at the other end of the scale we have over the top characters in Cleo Sylvestre’s Beryl Finch, the owner of the restaurant and sleezy reporter Gerald Spencer, played by Tony Turner. The Agatha Christie whodunnit mystery allows for these larger than life characters, though none are more impressive that Bilis himself.

Melvin rises to the challenges of the dark humour in Llewellyn’s script. There are some genuinely laugh out loud moments, an absolute highlight being Bilis himself proposing ways in which he might be killed. It’s so ridiculous and yet it absolutely works in the context of the story. The actor also manages to navigate the more expositional elements of the script with ease; every word delivered is like velvet, be it cultural observations or outlandish threats to his life. Melvin could read the phone book and it would be a riveting hour of drama.

There are plenty of delicious twists and turns and director Lisa Bowerman certainly brings out the very best in this hugely talented cast of actors. Dead Plates is dark, twisted and very fun. Long may Bilis Manger continue.

Torchwood: Dead Plates is available to purchase at the Big Finish site here and goes on general release on the 31st August 2022.

 

The Extras

Director Lisa Bowerman talks about her joy of finally getting to work with Murray Melvin and the talent he brings to the performance. Melvin is wonderful to listen to as he describes playing multiple killers in his career and the gift of Torchwood and Big Finish, that keeps on giving. The cast, all first choices by Bowerman, offer some great insights into their characters and the awfulness of their actions. Rosa Escoda talks about recording her first audio drama and some horror stories she’s heard about the industry; thankfully she’s not experienced the same situations.

Soho as a character is a theme running throughout the behind the scenes discussions. Melvin and Cleo Sylvestre share their memories of the Soho of the 60s and 70s and the colourful characters they met, that aren’t too dissimilar to the ones encountered in this story! While writer David Llewellyn, calls the inspiration for Dead Plates in Abigail’s Party meets An Inspector Calls and the similarities between the characters and real life figures like Francis Bacon and his own memories of Soho at the time.

 

Synopsis

Bilis Manger has been murdered. And he’s determined to find out who did it. Four people at dinner are the suspects, and they’ve each got murky secrets and at least one skeleton in the closet.

What is really on the menu at one of Soho’s finest restaurants? And will any of the suspects make it out alive?

Cast

Murray Melvin (Bilis Manger)
Rosa Escoda (Felicity Templeton)
Jack Forsyth-Noble (Policeman)
Dylan Jones (Tom)
Hugh Ross (Oliver Barleycorn)
Cleo Sylvestre (Beryl Finch)
Tony Turner (Gerald Spencer)

Production Credits

Music by Blair Mowat
Senior Producer David Richardson
Assistant Producer Alfie Shaw
Cover Art by Sean Longmore
Director Lisa Bowerman
Executive Producer Jason Haigh-Ellery, Nicholas Briggs
Producer James Goss
Script Editor James Goss
Sound Design by Toby Hrycek-Robinson
Written by David Llewellyn
Theme Music by Murray Gold
Additional themes by Ben Foster

Recommended Listening

Torchwood: Deadbeat Escape

Torchwood: Dead Man’s Switch

Torchwood: Drive

 

Leave a Reply

Further reading

Subscribe

%d bloggers like this: