House full of mirrors – Mockery Manor

I swear, I tried. I really wanted this review to be about the first season of the – absolutely gorgeous – production from Long Cat Media, and about the first season only. I finished the last episode, opened the text editor to type out my thoughts, and only got up to make some tea. But somehow, before I knew it, I was in the middle of Season 2 – and I’m still not sure how it happened.

But trust me, however cryptic this incident was, it’s by far the feeblest of the mysteries brought upon me by the Lindsay Sherman & Laurence Owen. Mockery ManorIManor. I have to admit here that I didn’t really think that Manor would be something up my alley. The only thing that I’ve heard from Long Cat before  was a few episodes of Madame Magenta, and judging by the title, I was dead sure that Mockery Manor will be another comic piece. I couldn’t be more wrong!

The only mockery that we encounter during our journey through the Manor’s mysterious and unsettling corridors – aside from lady Mockery herself of course – is the dark and twisted kind of vicious mockery one could encounter in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, or maybe David Lynch, where the innocent and the mundane turn out to be outlandish terrors, and the mysterious stranger dressed as the Red Death is in fact the plague itself.

The show is truly a house of mirrors, a whole mansion of reflections even, if you forgive the pun. The first and foremost deceit of this story is that it tries to convince you that it’s an uncomplicated murder mystery in style of Miss Marple. In the first minutes of the story we hear someone, a woman who is obviously a stranger to us, being killed. Rather gruesomely, as we may suspect. Cut!

Next we fast forward a few hours, maybe days, and the set changes. We are introduced to our colorful bunch of misfits with hearts of gold, with our main focus being a teenage girl, rebellious (naturally) and reluctant (obviously) about a summer job at a vintage theme park, which she is about to undertake and her inevitable love interest, a bad boy. Did I already mention that she’s conflicted with her parents and sibling? Of course I did, she’s a teenager after all!

If you happened, dear reader, to ever read a criminal YA novel, or maybe catch even one single episode of this sort of procedural detective drama, you know as well as I do, what’s going to happen next:
Someone finds the body, our pack of young detectives starts to search for clues, hesitantly at first, we learn more about the victim with every single answered question, she transits from a disembodied voice in the first episode to somebody we feel we know intimately, and when the last element of the puzzle falls into its destined place, everything becomes cristal clear, including not only WHODUNIT, but also the motive behind the murder, victim’s shoe size, long lost heir who nobody suspected, and most importantly we find out that the real treasure were the friends we made along way. Oooh, and there’s a big argument between the heroine and her chosen, but later they forgive each other. And there’s a comic relief, probably fat, definitely wearing glasses. Right?

Wrong. Dead wrong. What you thought was just a simple and straightforward crime novel, turns out to be anything but. Right now you may be asking yourself: ‘What the hell are you talking about? There is a murder, there is, obviously, a mystery, so it must be a murder mystery.’ Well, I mean… It’s not not a murder mystery. But honestly, calling it that would be doing it a colossal disservice. You could as well call The Odyssey ‘a story of a guy who has to take a detour coming home’ or the story of Alladin ‘a tale about the many benefits of owning a small home appliance’.

In the Mockery Manor we get the criminal puzzle, true, but we also get a really well told horror story, a psychological thriller brimming with family backstory and stifling drama and finally a heartbreaking tale of human sorrow.

Now on the technical side:

The series is exceptionally well written. Really, I don’t know what I could add to this; it reminds me of my teenage years, when I would stay under the blanket and devour a good book by torchlight, because the plot was too engaging to put it down and go to sleep. I can’t rebember any other audio drama that would keep me up all night, so there’s that.

The overall production quality is very high, recording, music and the effects are very professional and well executed, but it seems to me that this is just an industry standard right now; we’re far beyond the times of low quality, ‘homebrew’ podcasts and stories where actors were recording their pieces on a headset mic via Skype, to be glued together by an home-grown sound engineer. Still, there’s nothing to be faulted in this regard.

I must admit here that the voice acting did seem to be a little weird at first, we have a German character who every now and then speaks with what appears to be an Eastern European accent, an Italian who in turn sounds French, and, which puzzled me the most, an Irishman who in turn has Irish accent, but so exaggerated that even for me as a foreigner sounds more like a Hollywood approximation than something made by a British studio. However, around episode 3 of the first season, I noticed that all of the incredibly diverse folks we hear in the drama, are in fact played by a handful of actors – entire cast of Season 1 is a dozen of performers, and in Season 2 we have as few as 8 actors! I’d like to make a note here, that I mean this not as a negative, but rather as an observation that some people may have as well, however only at the beginning, as it is surprising only in the first few moments, and one does get over it instantly. It in fact speaks highly of the cast’s incredible talent and craftsmanship, that they were able to portray such a rich social landscape when so few in number. I need to give a special recognition to truly spectacular Hayley Evenett, who was able to convincingly play two twin sisters, Bette and JJ, letting the listener know that they are really twins, while at the same time giving each of them such depth, distinct personality, and even speech styles, that I didn’t get them confused with each other even once.

If you miss your childhood days, when carnival was a magical place full of wonder, clowns seemed really scary, and the shadowy outline of a jumper left on  your bedroom chair was enough to bring a visceral terror that would keep you up all night – look no further. But be advised: don’t start listening to the Mockery Manor if you don’t have the time to binge it in its entirety!

All in all, if you don’t mind murders, mysteries, theme parks, family drama, nor a story so captivating that it will make your tea go cold before you drink entire of it, Mockery Manor is an absolute must to add into your podcatchers queue.

More about the series can be, of course, found on the studio’s website, and it’s two to date seasons are available on most podcatchers, with Season 3 returning this April.






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