R&C was narrated so well by the late Richard Briers that it’s difficult to imagine it any other way.
Decades of memories, fond memories, all add up to a problem when trying to do something a little different, something originally unaccounted for, that being adaptation into a digital book format.
Our task: Rework and rebuild an original TV script into a unique stand-alone story and implement this in our Box of Tricks appbook framework as a fully interactive digital storybook. Overwhelmingly of course, the book would require a reader.
How do we deal with this? Richard Briers is synonymous with the Roobarb and Custard brand and his talent is often acknowledged right up to this day. In fact The Times listed Richard’s performance as Roobarb as one of the top 10 best children’s TV voices. His narration is so deeply comfortable, perfectly timed, laced with character and bubbling with puns, irony and humour. How do we respect the brand and pay homage to the original master, without him around to do it justice?
Firstly we considered using the original narration, read by Richard, direct from the TV show and cutting it up to fit our needs. It did not take long before this was dismissed due to the earlier comment about depth and timing. There was no way we’d be able to capture the essence required without extensive post production and even then, we were concerned his emotion and character would be lost. A bad idea. What were we thinking?!
So, this left us with one option and three creative possibilities. We needed the narration to be re-read from the outset, taking into account the digital environment we intend to use it for.
We had three creative possibilities:
1. Seek out a sound-a-like. Not very respectful and that magic, that ‘spark’, would be inevitably lost. Another bad idea…
2. We try a completely new male actor to read the story. A possibility of course, but who would possibly be good enough?
3. We turn the whole issue on its head and try a completely new approach. Find the perfect female actor to bring the comedy and characters needed for the role allowing us to draw a line under the TV show and start a new chapter.
It goes without saying that, after much debate, we went for option 3. Having a female narrative gives us that degree of separation, allowing us to build on the legacy of the brand with something different for the digital era; something that we could add, our part of the Roobarb and Custard story.
Now we are talking!
The only remaining question was, who?
It was Kat, our ever present producer, who suggested Tamsin Greig. Now, we can talk about Black Books and Green Wing until the cows come home, go out to dinner and maybe hang out in the pub for a bit, but let’s not. Let’s get straight down to the fact that this was an inspired choice.
Tamsin was unbelievably good. She completely grasped what we were trying to do and how to bring the Richard Briers’ magic to the read without going over the top. Tamsin read When Custard Was Grounded with such flair, such careful consideration, it was a winner.
You’re in for such a treat on the 5th December when the appbook is published onto the AppStore! We can’t wait, and we very much hope you enjoy Roobarb and Custard in its digital picture book form as much as we have enjoyed developing it.
Photographs of Richard Briers courtesy of A&B TV