The Cambridge Geek


Are you one of the many, many people who end up on this site looking for Curious Under the Stars? Then I suspect you might also be interested in this.

The Mabinogion, or more specifically the Four Branches of the Mabinogi (beware spoilers!) is the first British prose, and tells a collection of tales, which have been adapted for this radio series. And luckily, also translated from the original Middle Welsh. (Dydw i ddim yn siarad Cymraeg. Mae'n ddrwg gennym. (I have no idea if that's correct.))

It's set up from the beginning as the story of Pryderi, a young prince of Dyfed, who has failed to prove himself in battle (can't even beat his dad), and is in need of marrying off in order to get him some maturity. Lucky, then, that Bran the Blessed, a nearby king, has an eligible sister, the ravishing Branwen, whom Pryderi sets off to woo. With him is his adoptive sister, Brigid, who is a bard in training and significantly more competent at, well, everything.

What follows is an adventure that includes fights with Big Bran, a war with Ireland, a bit of lasanga making, family drama and a massive cauldron. The Pair Dadeni, to be specific, which has the power of resurrecting the dead. While Pryderi is sort of at the centre of it, it's not really just his story. Brigid is easily the most likable character in it, being more active on all counts, and having some impressive nuance to her familial connections. He feelings for Pryderi are expressed artfully. She's a nice counter to Branwen, who mostly feels like a damsel in distress.

There's also a pleasing amount going on with the ensemble, and the frequent appearances of the King of the Dead suggest a spooky backstory to Brigid, which unfortunately there's not a lot of time for. This series of 5 episodes I believe only covers the first two branches, and I would certainly be interested in listening to the other two, but it does seem like it heads a bit grim. (Or a "Brigid Investigates" spinoff.)

Good music throughout, with some nice sound design (even if Bran is a bit boomy), and has an enjoyable similarity to Pilgrim, though with the inverse on some of Pryderi's lines. William Palmer always sounds like a man out of time in the modern world, whereas here in the Middle Ages, Pryderi's dialogue, such as "it was a team effort really", makes him seem slightly off-kilter, fitting for his immature nature.

Overall, a very fun hour (and probably a fun final quarter hour - I'll discover tonight), and one I can recommend.

Score 4

Tagged: Radio Drama Cast Fiction Adaptation