The Sandman by Neil Gaiman and Dirk Maggs – Audio Drama Review
This review doesn’t include any discussion of the story; rather, it examines the performances of some of the main characters and what this audio drama does well.
I listened to this stellar audio adaptation to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman immediately upon release—the 90s juggernaut published by DC’s Vertigo imprint means a great deal to me and to hear it rendered with such impeccable fidelity by a grade-A cast was nothing short of the greatest pleasure. In terms of directing, ambition and scope, I would be hard-pressed to choose an Audible production better than this one.
James McAvoy stars as Morpheus, our titular Lord of Dreams; his voice offers a melancholia to Dream, while adding a glimmer of humanity that wasn’t always as pronounced in the comic book; even when Morpheus rages and acts in cruelty, there’s a kernel of…not kindness but tolerance, perhaps, that is different than what I envisioned when I read the comic book. Yet, he is spectacular in the role.
Kat Dennings plays Dream’s older sibling, Gaiman’s much-adored iteration of Death, a punkish, happy-go-lucky psychopomp who will eventually turn the lights off on the universe. Dennings’ husky, animated voice captures the very essence of the character. Her conversations with Dream serve to draw contrast between the two siblings; despite the care-free appearance, Death carries a weight that Dream hasn’t experienced, too preoccupied with himself.
Michael Sheen does a wonderful job as Lucifer in Dream’s descent into Hell, giving him a voice that recalls the appearance of the Lord of Hell in the comic book (a young, devilish David Bowie, as shown in the panel at the bottom of this review) through something I don’t want to call either mimicry or imitation. Rather, it’s as if Sheen channels Bowie, delivering lines as I imagine Bowie would have, had he not tragically passed away in 2016.
Gaiman himself narrates, and does a splendid job of it. If you’ve ever listened to his reading anything, you know what to expect, there’s not much more to say.
This is an audio drama in the most wonderful ways, with all the special effects, music, rustling of fabrics and background noise. Its reception gives me the hope that with such works, the audiobooks coming out of Graphic Audio, and narrative podcasts, we are in fact in a Renaissance of the long-dessicated form of the radio drama, that popular pastime that lost much of its audience after television came to prominence; whether this is a Renaissance, or a resurrection and transformation is beside the point—I’m here for it either way.
To recommend this is no difficult choice at all. Just writing this review makes me yearn to give this another listen. My excitement for the next installments—confirmed by Gaiman and Maggs both, after the amazing success of the audio drama on and after release—can hardly be contained.