Big Finish continue their dramatizations of the novels of HG Wells with his classic 1896 novel The Island of Dr Moreau. Far more than a mere fiction, Wells’ tale is heavily based (like most of his writings) on scientific theory of the time. This particular novel explores what would happen if man created hybrids out of animals from vivisections. It is a cautionary tale that warns of the consequences of messing with nature – a theme that punctuates a lot of his writing.
The story is told by Edward Prendick who, after being saved from a shipwreck, finds himself on a strange island where a mysterious doctor and his assistant have been creating a race of man-animal hybrids. Prendick tries to comes to terms with what he has discovered but finds himself caught in the ethical and moral dilemmas of such experimentation.
Big Finish has assembled a stellar cast of versatile actors for this reading, which has been dramatized by Ken Bentley and who also directs the play. In the role of the protagonist, John Heffernan goes through the huge amount of emotions required with ease, from disbelief to shock, disgust and, finally, to numbness. He reads Wells’ original texts with authority and carries the role exceptionally well. As the title character, Ronald Pickup delivers a chilling performance as the misguided and ultimately doomed Dr Moreau. His assistant, Montgomery, is also finely nuanced by Enzo Cilenti. The supporting cast is well represented and the minor characters are all well performed.
Director Bentley keeps the action flowing for most of the production although some very wordy scenes in the middle do drag the momentum down and stop the pace somewhat. The soundscape and music by Steve Foxon and Howard Carter respectively are up to the usual high standard we have come to expect from Big Finish.
If you are a fan of Wells’ original novel, you will find much to enjoy in this reading and if you are new to the works of Wells then this gives you an excellent snapshot of his ideas and main themes.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Rating out of 10: 7
Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: July 2017
RRP: $24.50 (CD), $13 (Download)