|Audio programs, including full-cast dramatizations, audiobooks, and radio plays, have long been a staple of the Sherlockian world. Although not generally as high profile as the many film and television interpretations of Sherlock Holmes and his chronicler Dr. Watson, the range of actors to essay the roles and the quality of productions, are just as varied and every bit as entertaining. The listening experience however, is happily far less passive than television or film, as the listener is required to make use of his imagination to give form to the voice-work. If the voice-work fits the character, the listener may easily conjure his perfect Holmes and Watson in his mindís eye, or have his favorite illustration by Paget or Dorr Steele brought to vivid life! Of course the forms that spring to mind when listening to the old Caedmon readings by Basil Rathbone or the more recent readings by Edward Hardwicke for Telltapes are likely somewhat more obvious! Whatever your preference, be it the full-blown dramatizations of the BBC series featuring Clive Merrison and the late Michael Williams or the more simple narratives voiced by Douglas Wilmer, the medium is a thoroughly engaging one and well worth discovering for the Sherlockian enthusiast.
A relative newcomer to the field of Sherlock Holmes audio, though highly talented performer with solid voice credits to his name, is David Ian Davies. Fans of the popular Star Wars video games will recognize him as the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi on both Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds and Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron 2. He has also given voice to many classic stories culled from the works of Shakespeare, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Oscar Wilde and H. G. Wells. His catalogue of Sherlockian voice-work is already an impressive one, featuring roughly 15 hours of running time. Among the Sherlockian titles that David has performed are STUD, SIGN, TWIS, CARD, STOC, SILV and HOUN. The last of which will shortly be released as an impressive 4-disc CD set under the One Voice Recordings label.
Although without enhancement through music or sound effects, to refer to Davidís Sherlock Holmes productions as simply dramatic readings is a major understatement, as he brings a wonderful range of distinctly unique voices into play as he essays each of the characters, creating a marvelously layered and rich listening experience that showcases Arthur Conan Doyleís masterful use of language. The reliable mainstay and backbone to his Sherlockian recordings is his grand approach to Watson. Here we have a warm, slightly older Watson with a hint of gruffness to his voice, that to my imagination conjures up a restrained Nigel Bruce without any hint of the bumbling simpleton of the films. The old campaigner, concerned medico, reliable friend and consummate story-teller are all present in this audio Watson. As with the casting of Bruce opposite Rathbone in the Fox and Universal films, the reason for the Bruce-type voice is the same, to create sharp contrast to Holmes. Daviesí Holmes is a model of Canonical fidelity. A high-pitched, somewhat strident, occasionally nasal quality, is the hallmark of Daviesí approach. Never quite smug or arrogant, yet always laced with a hint of bemused superiority, Daviesí Holmes works effectively as he crosses through the many facets of Holmes peculiar range, moving flawlessly from abject lethargy to razor-sharp intensity when roused. At times I can hear the child-like exclamation of joy or warm-hearted laugh reminiscent of Jeremy Brettís characterization in the Granada television series, and I mean that in a most complimentary sense, as these elements beautifully fit my perception of the Canonical Holmes.
The other characters that populate the Sherlockian landscape are handled with equal aplomb. Dr. Mortimerís piping bird-like oddness on meeting Holmes or Mrs. Barrymoreís grief-stricken confession of her relationship to Selden are wonderful moments, both of which exemplify Daviesí considerable talents in producing memorable and diverse vocal renditions.
Also available for commercial download through Audible.com is Daviesí A Gallery of Holmes (running some 9 hours and 18 minutes) that includes STUD, SIGN, STOC, TWIS, SILV, CARD and MISS.