Reviewed By: traves8853
Review Date: 9/1/15 7:32 am
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
'Solitaire' was recorded on 15 January 2010 and written by John Dorney, featuring India Fisher as 'Charley Pollard' and David Bailie as 'The Celestial Toymaker'. Along with 'The Time Museum' and 'The Jigsaw War', this is one of only three Companion Chronicles not to feature any narration. All three are full cast audio dramas with only two speaking parts. I didn't realise that this series was narrated when I listened to 'Fear of the Daleks' and to be honest I wasn't expecting to listen to any of these once I realised that they were exclusively or near exclusively narrated. Based on the strength of the reviews here I thought I would give it another attempt.
Charlie finds herself in the 'Toymaker's' toyshop unable to remember why she is there or who the Doctor is, with just the Toymaker for company and unable to leave forced to be an unwilling participant in a game she is unfamiliar with. No Doctor, no TARDIS and no way out. Although at the beginning of the second episode it soon becomes aware that even the Toymaker has to follow the rules of the game.
Not having heard 'The Nightmare Fair' and only having the one episode of 'The Celestial Toymaker' to go on David Bailie is a wonderful substitute for Michael Gough and give a very nuanced yet creepy performance and his chiding of Charley for not getting his near impossible and unpredictable demands. The shrinking shop that adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere is a great time constraint device adding menace and urgency. I think India gives a very competent performance but not much more because the centre of attention is the Toymaker himself. It's all about what he is going to do next. The sounds are functional and the music subtle yet aiding the atmosphere.
Oddly the exposition comes in the beginning of the second episode, and when it does it soon becomes clear even the Toymaker doesn't have all the answers. This keeps you on your feet. The roles of the characters kind of play musical chairs at the end - I know it's billed as a two hander but to me the shop is like a third character. Everything is impermanent in this universe and it feels like the writer is very adeptly using sleight of hand to distract your attention. The one disappointment with 'Scherzo' was the lack of finality to its ending; 'Solitaire' has no such problem. Although it still leaves you with a question mark.
As far as character driven dramas go they don't get better than this. There is weirdness and game play to keep you guessing, it's about as far from conventional as you can get and has made me look upon these in a new light. Well, sort of, I don't expect many to be as good as this.