8:15 pm EDT, November 28, 2012

Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’ recorded for radio with all-star cast

After weeks of rumors, hints, and partial confirmations, the cast list for the BBC Radio 4 production of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere has been posted by the author, along with an adorable picture of the radio play’s cast – headlined by James McAvoy and featuring many of our fandom faves – wishing he could join them for the recording process.

Neverwhere is a story that has already found success in adaptations – it first came into the world as a six part television series, scripted by Gaiman and Lenny Henry, in 1996. The author then adapted the series into a novel, allowing him to expand on his ideas for the story and include elements that had been planned for the television version and subsequently taken out. Neverwhere has also inspired a comic book series and a stage play, though these were not penned by Gaiman.

Neverwhere tells the story of Richard Mayhew, a young Scottish man living in London, who journeys into the mysterious and hidden world of London Below after helping one of its inhabitants, a girl named Door. After his interaction with Door, he discovers that he has come to no longer exist in the ‘real world’ – London Above – and he travels through London Below with Door and the sassy Marquis de Carabas in order to find a solution.

For years, Neverwhere in its various forms has bewitched audiences and created a sense of magic in the ordinary for anyone who has ever glanced at a London tube map. In the urban fantasy, familiar London icons take on a whole new meaning in the world Below – Knightsbridge becoming “the Night’s Bridge,” Earl’s Court is a real noble court, and Blackfriars… well, read the book. You’ll see.

The BBC  production promises to bring the story to life once again, in a new but no less thrilling format. The old-fashioned stylings of a radio play suit Gaiman’s work perfectly, and the cast is something from a dream – not only have we never seen a radio production created with such an all-star line up, we also could not imagine better actors to play these roles. The list Gaiman revealed today looks like something from a Tumblr fantasty-casting meme.

James McAvoy as Richard Mayhew, our lost Scotsman
Natalie Dormer as Door, the girl who leads Richard to London Below
David Harewood as the Marquis de Carabas, a cunning trickster but loyal friend to Door 
Sophie Okonedo as Hunter, the bodyguard Door hires
Benedict Cumberbatch as the mysterious Islington
Anthony Head as Croup, an assassin
David Schofield as Vandemar, an assassin
Bernard Cribbins as The Old Bailey, an inhabitant of London Below
Romola Garai as Jessica, Richard’s fiancée in London Above
Sir Christopher Lee as the Earl of Earl’s Court

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The production will also feature:

Andrew Sachs (Tooley)
George Harris (Abbot)
Don Gilet (Fulingous, Ruislip, Blackfriar)
Abdul Salis (Sable, Sump, Clarence, Homeless Man)
Paul Chequer (Gary, Guard 2)
Lucy Cohu (Lamia)
Yasmin Paige (Anaesthesia, others)
Johnny Vegas (Lord Ratspeaker)
Stephen Marcus (Varney, others)
Karen Archer (Sylvia, others)

Here are some of the cast, along with director Dirk Maggs, sending their love to the absent Neil Gaiman:

Gaiman will also be featured in the radio play, presumably as a narrator, but already recorded his parts separately, as he could not make the full-cast table read and recording due to personal reasons.

From a fandom perspective, we’re pretty much salivating over this cast – we’ve got James McAvoy from X-Men, Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones, David Harewood from Homeland, Tony Head from Merlin (and, of course, Buffy). Bernard Cribbins and Sophie Okonedo are some of our featured favorites from Doctor Who, and Christopher Lee will be reprising his Saruman for us in The Hobbit this Christmas. And then, of course, there’s Benedict Cumberbatch, from everything, and we’re pretty much weeping over his casting as Islington because it’s the most perfect thing in the history of time. The only negative thing about the entire proceeding is that we won’t get to see these actors play out the roles, because this cast would work equally well on screen.

Neverwhere will be broadcast in early 2013 and will be available worldwide via BBC iPlayer, which does not have country restrictions for radio content.

So – what do you think? Are you a fan of Neverwhere? Do you think this casting is brilliant, or is there anyone else you would have included? If you haven’t read the book or seen the TV series, will you be checking out the radio play because of this cast?

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