REVIEW: New David Tennant Audio Project - Carmilla

David Tennant is part of an all new full cast recording of the erotic vampire classic Carmilla, just released by Audible Originals. First published in serial form by J. Sheridan le Fanu between 1871-2, the story centres on an account by the teenage Laura of her relationship with another young woman who is not all that she appears. The story is one of the first works of vampire Gothic fiction, predating Bram Stoker’s Dracula by several years, and has inspired many a romantic horror tale since. The writer was thought to have based his work on historical collections of European folk tales and legends of the supernatural.

“You are mine now. I shall have you all. I shall drink you up like wine. I shall suck you up. I shall eat you.”

The story takes the form of a case study, introduced by Dr. Hesselius (David Tennant), centring on an account by a girl called Laura (Rose Leslie). A lonely teenager staying with her father (James Wilby) in Austria, Laura becomes close to another young woman called Carmilla (Phoebe Fox) who is recuperating with them following a carriage accident. Soon after, the local community is plagued by a spate of mysterious illnesses and deaths, while Laura herself is haunted by visions of a stalking black creature in her room. Meanwhile, the attraction between Laura and Carmilla grows, but while Laura succumbs to illness herself, Carmilla seems to grow more powerful and hypnotic.

Carmilla is the perfect Gothic horror to get you in the Hallowe’en mood, and this new cast recording draws you in as smoothly as a silky-tongued vampire seduces their prey. Rose Leslie conjures a fresh-faced ingĂ©nue in her protagonist Laura, whose eye-witness account we follow. Her performance contrasts sharply with the sensual breathy voice of Phoebe Fox as the malevolent and manipulative Carmilla, the demonic figure at the centre of the tale. The world of Laura and Carmilla becomes increasingly more entwined and stifling. Their initial companionship develops into touches and embraces, blushes and kisses, and as Laura weakens, her dependence on her companion makes her even more vulnerable. Through Laura’s careful, matter-of-fact descriptions of terrifying and erotic events the overall sense of unease quickly deepens. It doesn't take too long to establish that there is something not quite right about Laura’s friend and house guest, but the attempts of other characters to dismiss curious and disturbing events with greater and greater stretches of rationality only intensify the sensation that before long something terrible will happen.

It has to be said that David Tennant does not have a huge role in this recording, opening the tale and then not reappearing until well into the second part. However, his role as the mere curator of the horrifying tale of Carmilla has been bumped up somewhat, now merging with the original story’s Baron Vordenburg to become something of a vampire hunter. Dr. Hesselius is the only character to use an accent and his curious Germanic voice marks him as someone distinct from the other characters in his knowledge, experience and beliefs. Even his arrival makes an impression on Laura: “The strangest figure, slim, with high shoulders, dressed in black, wearing a tricorn hat with a broad brim and gold spectacles.  His face was turned up to the sky and wore a strange smile. A little weary but somehow very wise.”

The cast work well together to conjure a world of paranoia and shadows within which the terrified protagonists are stalked by monsters. Laura’s story includes an account of another vampire attack, experienced by a family friend, and from this moment the pieces of the puzzle of Carmilla start to fall into place. The imagery of the final scenes in the ruined chapel is pure and classic horror and has fed into vampire mythology ever since.  Carmilla is already acknowledged as an extremely important piece of work in the history of Gothic horror and happily this new cast production does it the justice that it deserves.

Carmilla was adapted from the original novel by Robin Brooks and directed by Fiona McAlpine of Allegra Productions for Audible Originals.

Dr. Hesselius - David Tennant
Carmilla - Phoebe Fox
Laura - Rose Leslie
Father - James Wilby
General Spielsdorf - David Horovitch
Milady - Lucy Robinson
Madame Perrodon - Susan Wooldridge
Katherine - Hannah Genesius
Beppo, Doctor, Labourer - Michael Shelford
Little Laura - Kitty Peterkin
Maria - Mia Hall

Order your download of Carmilla here. Alternatively you can stream it for FREE until November 30th via the same link.