The Cambridge Geek

Night of the Orchid

Madeleine has retreated to the depths of Scotland, fleeing an altar and a future husband, and seeking the comfort of her great aunt's home. Her aunt Mary is now mostly bedbound, being cared for in the drafty old mansion by her lifelong companion and maid, Miss Kite. Madeleine's intrusion into their quiet life is welcomed by Mary, but mistrusted by Miss Kite, especially when Madeleine brings trouble with her.

When she was a child, she had a fondness for Mary's glasshouse, which used to contain a verdant garden, but is now locked up, and fallen into disrepair. All it contains is a single orchid, but that is enough to convince Madeline to steal the key and sneak into it. Which is how she discovers the true nature of the spectre in the glasshouse that she only saw hints of when she was younger.

This is a modern Gothic, set more or less now, but letting the idea of the Gothic seep through the setting, the characters and the emotions. The house is a personality in itself, with the ominous glasshouse looming large in everyone's thoughts. The dark secret it holds has a grasp on all of the people who've ever been inside it, and Madeleine's re-awakening of the force in it sets the terrible plot in motion.

The spectre is horribly charming. There's a lot of the Don Juan in him, with his ability to win over the women of the house leading them into temptation. It's well done, with the actor channeling a grim potency in his pursuit of Madeleine. Her fall is convincing, and their back and forth of pursuit and desire makes for very good listening. Madeleine is no whimpering victim here, having a strong passion and will of her own that makes her interactions with the spectre less of a simple chase, but more of an enthusiastic meeting of minds.

It's an unusual approach, but one I certainly appreciate. This stands in stark contrast to the conversations between the other players, which are a little more pedestrian, but not sufficiently to be tedious.

The horror ramps up nicely, with some fun goriness and a rather more earthy feel than you might typically expect from the ethereal house on the hill. The violence is simple but better for it, not feeling excessive to the point of silliness. The family drama is pleasingly gruesome, and has several layers of complexity that add an additional cruelty to the overall acts of the ghost. It stimulated the "eurgh" response pretty well, with some enjoyably meaty sound effects. Good production values throughout though. It's a polished piece.

Overall, quite a nice bit of horror, with some unexpected twists and turns and a satisfying climax, that pays off everything that built up to it. May have to investigate a few more of these.

Score 4

Tagged: Audio fiction Horror Cast Dramatised Horror Standalone