1.1 Up in the Air by Gemma Page
We open our account with this in Big Finish’s originals range with a rather left of centre for a company whose main output is science fiction, however, we have a drama based around conflict, albeit World War II. Louise Jameson as put together 4 stories of a group of women whom in the war acted as the backbone of the supply chain of the RAF. These largely unsung heroes would fly new planes and I would imagine repaired ones where ever they were required, usually after very few actual hours of flying, this was in the days when aptitude, zeal and downright guts got you by and if not a decent smudge of lippie’. We must not forget that a lot of the time this in itself would be as dangerous as flying in to battle, let’s face it, a German plane seeing a lone spitfire or hurricane would see shooting it down as another kill. So these women ran immense risks. Of course these women would be trying to live their lives as well, and this is where these drama’s come into them from this new adventure. The first episode sets up the characters, and some of their respective back story. The stand out thing that you start to appreciate with this is the pure quality and the almost magical way that it takes you straight to the era, the first story tells of the girls meeting up, of them forming friendships and of them getting to grips with a world which in the 40’s was a man’s world, these women are taking on a task that they are not in society expected to do. We see how these world clash, and how these women are really starting to re-write the normalities of the world, by, their actions. The standout here are the cast, all of whom instantly win you over and you feel like you have known or heard stories of them before. What a cracking first story.
1.2 Dancing With A Spitfire by Victoria Saxton
Dancing with Spitfire move our story on. We get to know Second Officer Mina Lauderdale a girl who is living the life, heady adventures, almost film star qualities of the rich and famous, the, life of a women who flies planes, goes to wild parties, dancing, drinking enjoying life. Or is she, for Mina there is a something, an itch if you like something that she doesn’t quite understand she knows she is different and not just from the way that she is living her life, there is some part of her life that is unexplained. She then gets to meet US pilot Jeanette, a girl from the US, but Jeanette is aware, less repressed, less in need of the need to conform, after all she is also in a man’s world and she is making her way. The story without giving too much away leads us and shows us that people are people, regardless of the sexual preferences should be free to live the life that they have to, and not feel that conformation to social norms should be preference, it is what makes you happy. However this is largely a perspective from the now, we are talking the 1940’s and wartime Britain where behaviour like this outside the social norms is really just not acceptable, in some instance illegal. It certainly makes your think about, although the world now is not perfect, it is certainly not as bad as it was then. The story is lovingly told, and reflection of the content really makes you understand how far we have come. This is a lot more adult of a story and piece than I would have expected from Big Finish but it is beautifully written and performed, and does not veer to far, keeping the life values of equality firmly in the forefront of the going’s on
1.3 Flying Blind by Helen Goldwyn
I have to say without a shadow of doubt that in all the years of listening to Big Finish Audio, this by far is the first time I was bought to tears, this is possible the most wonderfully written, acted and produced episode in this entire really glorious release. You are taken on journey that is quite simply so desperately sad, and heart-breaking, it shows off the most despicable elements of the human condition and the most vulnerable ones, the points of where you think life cannot get any worse and then you find it suddenly does. The acting in this is stunning I was literally hanging on the words and the wonderful sound scape that Nathalie Buscombe is stand out she owns the entire episode with the conveyance of her emotion and her portrayal of someone who through the time she is in faces persecution for something that is the truest form of emotion and the desperate way that society at that time would literally create the most dyer and sad lives for people. The whole thing is without comparison, all the stories here are tremendous, but this alone is worth twice the costs. It is simply that good.
Everyone should take time out and have a listen to this – there aren’t enough review stars it’s that good
1.4 Grounded by Jane Slavin
Grounded takes us to the final instalment, I so want this to be made into a series it would be so good. We are thrown into the worst type of hell of the second war, that of a full blown air raid, and the ATA Girls have to find cover, whether that be above or below ground from the incoming bombs of the Luftwaffe. As the bombs rain down, not only fighting for their own survival we hear of a traumatised air pilot who has found some solace with one of the ATA girls. The bombs rain down and we learn of the fears of all involved. We learn of the lives of all effected, we hear the pain and suffering. They reflect on all of their lives and how they have changed. One thing I have not mentioned throughout this is that this is told in mini flash back with a surviving ATA girl and her daughter and granddaughter being used a catalyst of the story telling. This is used here to round off the story and makes for a rather wonderful ending. The one thing above all else that needs mention here is the wonderful music, it is absolutely spot on for the time, and it sets the scene most every moment of the drama.
ATA girls was I must admit something that I was not that bothered about, it was a last minute listen for me on my rota of reviews and I was not expecting anything I went into this open minded and with a few pre conceived ideas of this based on my upbringing, my history lessons and also family stories who had lived through this period of time. What I have taken away is 4 wonderful stories, a enlighten knowledge of just how bad things where for women in those days, and how bad men were, in a world that needed to pull together it was still trying to pull itself apart. For that ATA Girls is simply in a class of its own. Everyone should take time out and have a listen to this if you are serious about audio drama, that not just entertains but educates and makes you think.