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Audio Drama Review


The League of Gentlemen
Precious Things (Vinyl)


Starring: Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith
Publisher: Demon Records
RRP: £64.99
Release Date: 06 December 2019

Following on from the success of the sold-out Special Stuff box set, Demon Records presents the final instalment of tales from the fictional town of Royston Vasey in the League of Gentlemen’s Precious Things. This release pulls together the 2000 Christmas special and the three anniversary episodes from 2017 for the first time on vinyl. Starring Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, these exploits also feature Freddie Jones, Liza Tarbuck and David Morrissey among the cast. Each series is presented in a gatefold set with unique artwork from horror maestro Graham Humphreys, which lives within a die-cut rigid slipcase allowing you to swap over the sleeves to create a different local shop window…

It’s a shame in a way that the title Special Stuff has already been used (for a vinyl set containing all of the regular, six-part series of The League of Gentlemen), because it would have been an excellent moniker for this collection, which features all the television specials.

First up is the one-hour “Yule Never Leave”, which was originally transmitted on 27 December 2000. Presented on 180g ‘Snow Slash’ vinyl, this anthology episode finds the local vicar Bernice Woodall being prevented from watching the boxing by a series of three unwelcome guests and their tales of voodoo spells, German vampires, ancient curses and monkey knackers.

Unlike Scrooge’s infamous visitors, these people don’t represent Christmases past, present and future, but rather the recent past (an incident involving the unhappily married Charlie and Stella Hull), the more distant past (a flashback to 1975 featuring camp German Herr Lipp) and the even more distant past (a Victorian origin story for veterinarian Dr Chinnery). The plot structure pays homage to the classic horror anthology films of Amicus Productions, such as Dr Terror’s House of Horrors.

The anniversary specials, “Return to Royston Vasey”, “Save Royston Vasey” and “Royston Vasey Mon Amour”, are pressed on three sides of 180g ‘Snow Globe’ vinyl, with the fourth side comprising an etching of Tubbs and Edward trapped in a ‘Phantom Zone’-like state. First shown on 18–20 December 2017 to celebrate 20 years of The League of Gentlemen at the BBC, this three-parter tells the story of Benjamin finding out that his late Uncle Harvey is far from dead, Tubbs and Edward setting up shop in a derelict block of flats, Pauline reliving her past with her jobseekers, the continued woes of Geoff Tipps, and Les McQueen being offered another chance of chart success.

As a result of the increased maturity of the writers (the three stars plus Jeremy Dyson) by this point, there is an increased level of poignancy in addition to the usual levels of horror, gross-out humour, foul language and political incorrectness. The fates of Pauline and bingo caller Toddy are decidedly tragic, while the frenzy of public support that is whipped up by a misinterpretation of Edward’s “local shop for local people” message is a sad indictment of Brexit-era separatism.

Whenever television episodes of Doctor Who are released sans pictures, they benefit from additional narration, in order to explain all the visual stuff that cannot be heard, but for some reason this is never the case with television comedies on audio. Whether it be sketch shows like Not the Nine O’Clock News, sitcoms such as Blackadder, or the strange hybrid that is The League of Gentlemen, listeners are expected to be familiar enough with the source material to know what is happening during, for example, the dialogue-free opening minute of “Yule Never Leave”, or the scene in which voodoo disrupts Charlie’s dance moves.

This approach makes more sense when the release format is audio cassette, CD or MP3, because then you can experience your beloved comedy programme in situations where watching it on a screen just wouldn’t be feasible – when driving, for instance, or going for a run. However, you can’t take a record player with you in the car or to the park. I suppose you could listen to these discs while doing housework or decorating.

The 2017 three-parter is fresher in my memory than the 2000 Christmas special, so the more recent instalments worked better for me on audio only. Some sections of Precious Things come across as well in sound as they do on screen (after all, the League’s first series for the BBC was on the radio), including the bingo caller scene and Herr Lipp’s hilarious corruptions of the English language. However, I would much rather watch these episodes, which are available on DVD and on demand.

This is one for collectors only to spend their precious pocket money on – but, of course, we knew that already.


Richard McGinlay

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