Review of 'Neil Gaiman: Good Omens'

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I have always enjoyed reading the fantasy books of Neil Gaiman and his collaborator on the novel Good Omens the late (Sir) Terry Pratchett. When I was given the opportunity to hear Gaiman talk about the adaption of this novel to six episodes on Amazon Prime (airing the day after the talk), I could not pass it up. The auditorium of the Festival Hall was packed with a mixture of audience members which reflects on the general popularity of Gaiman's work.

Journalist, broadcaster and writer Kirsty Wark was the host for the evening but, to be honest, she talked very little, with the three others talking at length in response to her questions. Gaiman was joined by the two stars of the new show, David Tennant, familiar to many as a former Doctor Who but who also is a well-known Shakespearean actor who plays “Crawley” (an agent of the devil), and Michael Sheen who plays “Aziraphale” (an agent of heaven). The show began with a (very) brief video snippet of the two actors playing their characters which gave us very little clues about what it would look like but, thankfully, everyone was happy to expound.

The evening touched on a lot of aspects of the production and also the writing of the original book. Gaiman told us he had received an email from Pratchett requesting he start work on a script for their joint novel, Good Omens. Thinking he had time on his hands, he agreed but only a short time later Pratchett died. Returning to Los Angeles from the United Kingdom, having travelled there for the funeral, Gaiman started working on the script. He found writing the script incredibly difficult as there was no one there to bounce ideas off of, as it was when he wrote the original novel with Pratchett.

As with any such production, much has been cut from the original work (such as the four horsemen) but Gaiman indicated that he tried to keep the essence of the novel in place even introducing elements that never made it into the book. Production also allowed for a bit of improvisation which he felt added to the piece tremendously. Episode three has the longest prologue anyone is aware of at 29 minutes which tells the history of the two main characters Crawley and Aziraphale. The story focuses on how these two interact with one another of the course of many years.

The discussion focused a good deal on the casting of Tenant and Sheen. Originally Gaiman had seen Sheen as being suited for the role of Crawley but as he wrote the episodes he realised more and more that he would be better suited for Aziraphale, breaking it to him over an awkward meeting whether neither realized they had both come to the same conclusion!

At one point Tenant and Sheen treated the audience to a live performance of a short scene from the show where the two characters are in the back of Aziraphale's book shop…drunk. The scene was narrated by Gaiman and went down a storm with the audience. Amazing to see two talented actors at their height performing live – An unexpected bonus to the evening.

After an hour, they opened up the evening to questions from the audience. During this time Tenant related he was not too keen being bitten by a dog…they used an airbase in Oxfordshire for filming…“Don't buy betamax” was one of the funniest lines from the book/script…no matter what music played in Crawley's Bentley ends up morphing into something by Queen (this was blessed for use in the show by Brian May himself)…Tenant had to wear contact lenses that did get quite painful after a while…when Pratchett used to sign books for fans to be later signed by Gaiman, he would pass on messages to Gaiman via the fan such as “the rooster crows at midnight” saying “he will know what it means” which Gaiman would simply take in his stride (yeah, yeah)…the two main characters were originally one in the early days of the novel…

An interesting and very enjoyable evening with lots of laughter and even more anticipation for the series.


Tickets for the show included the option to purchase a signed copy of Gaiman's new publication of the script “The Quite Nice and Fairly Accurate Good Omens Script Book” for £20 (which I took advantage of) though there were limited copies.

Rating:

Review Date: 2019-05-29



Royal Festival Hall

Location: London (England)

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Opened as part of the “Festival of Britain” in 1951, the SouthBank Centre is forever reinventing itself with cutting-edge, contemporary as well as classic entertainment and social commentary. Looking a bit dated the venue is always busy with a number of restaurants below the terrace by the river and beside it as well as regular food market behind the building on Belvedere Road. Great, though small, gift shop too. To me it is almost like a university campus at times…