Tuesday, 24 April 2018

REVIEW: Grandma Guignol

Bafflegab Productions have just finished an eight-epiosde run of their new podcast, Grandma Guignol. Well, it's not entirely new; the podcast is a new format for the audio series The Brenda and Effie Mysteries, written by Paul Magrs and based on his successful series of novels. As the series was criminally overlooked, Bafflegab have given it a new lease of life, and it is now available here on iTunes. You can download the episodes or get them up on your podcast app or however you like to listen to them.

If there was ever a series that deserved more recognition, it's this. The story of the Bride of Frankenstein, now running a B&B in sleepy seaside town (and goth capital) Whitby, and her best friend, the aged witch and antiques dealer Effie. The story of ancient mummies, the story elephantine descendants of the London Monster, the story of the dreaded Crispy Cat! All told with Magrs's signature wit and aplomb.

The series stars Anne Reid as both Brenda and Effie (Last Tango in Halifax, Upstairs Downstairs, Coronation Street, A Close Shave, and multiple roles in Doctor Who, including a vampire, meaning she need only play a werewolf to round out the classic movie monster trifecta). Telling the story from Brenda's point of view, it is initially focused on her new life in Whitby, but by the final episode drifts back along Brenda's long and varied life. She's had periods working as a maid to Magrs's C. S. Lewis counterpart Reg Tyler (from The Fellowship of the Ink and Doctor Who: Mad Dogs and Englishmen), a spell as the headline act in a freakshow (palling around with Joseph Merrick) and much more besides.

There are guest roles for the likes of Dan "Strax" Starkey, Chris Pavlo, Alex Lowe and Stephen Critchlow, but this is Reid's production. She gives a wistful performance as Brenda, losing herself in her memories and granting them just as much life as her nocturnal escapades with Effie. In spite of the bizarre Gothic goings on, the stories spend as much time on everyday concerns and idle gossip as they do on supernatural mysteries. Brenda never misses the opportunity to comment on the quality of her lunch or pass busybody judgment on Whitby's eccentric inhabitants.

Anyone who has dipped into Paul Magrs's world with his Iris Wildthyme or Phoenix Court novels, or his many Doctor Who stories, should definitely check out Brenda's adventures, and any fan of magic realism, cosy supernatural stories or old-fashioned adventures should give it a try. Halfway between Hammer Horror and Alan Bennett, you'll find Grandma Guignol. Hopefully it will be popular enough to warrant a second series.

Image copyright Paul Hanley

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