Listen free for 30 days

Shadowplay

Length: 11 hrs and 40 mins
4.4 out of 5 stars (271 ratings)

£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

Summary

From Irish PEN award-winning author Joseph O’Connor, Shadowplay explores the characters whose loves and lives inspired Dracula. 

1878. The Lyceum Theatre, London. Three extraordinary people begin their life together. Henry Irving, the Chief, is the volcanic leading man and impresario; Ellen Terry is the most lauded and desired actress of her generation; and ever following along behind them in the shadows is the unremarkable theatre manager, Bram Stoker. 

Bram is wrestling with dark demons in a new city, in a new marriage, and with his own literary aspirations. As he walks the London streets at night, streets haunted by the Ripper and the gossip which swirls around his friend Oscar Wilde, he finds new inspiration. But the Chief is determined that nothing will get in the way of his manager’s devotion to the Lyceum and to himself. And both men are enchanted by the beauty and boldness of the elusive Ellen. 

©2019 Joseph O’Connor (P)2019 W. F. Howes Ltd

Critic reviews

"Joseph O’Connor is a very great artist and story teller. The quotient of enjoyment in his extraordinary new novel is stupendous." (Sebastian Barry)

"There are few living writers who can take us back in time so assuredly, with such sensual density, through such gorgeous sentences. Joseph O’Connor is a wonder, and Shadowplay is a triumph." (Peter Carey, twice winner of the Booker Prize)

What listeners say about Shadowplay

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    172
  • 4 Stars
    59
  • 3 Stars
    23
  • 2 Stars
    10
  • 1 Stars
    7
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    192
  • 4 Stars
    33
  • 3 Stars
    15
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    4
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    157
  • 4 Stars
    48
  • 3 Stars
    25
  • 2 Stars
    8
  • 1 Stars
    7

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A joy of a read, from start to end.

A most wonderful reading experience. A literary masterpiece, crafted by an author at the top of his game, skillfully narrated to bring life to each shining syllable. The dialogue and banter between Stoker, Irving and Terry skips along to the thrum of Victorian London life. Humorous, touching and emotive. Highly recommended, and an essential addition and listen to your Audible library.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Atmospheric and intriguing

In this fictionalized account of the life of Bram Stoker, the author adopts some of the literary techniques of Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula, including the use of diary entries, letters and transcripts of conversations as well as more traditional third person narration. As Stoker struggles – with limited success – to achieve his literary aspirations, some of the fun is spotting names and places that will later find their way into Dracula. The core of the novel is the relationship between Bram Stoker and the bombastic Sir Henry Irving. When famed actress, Ellen Terry, arrives on the scene it creates an even more turbulent triangle. Poor Florence, Bram Stoker’s wife, is rather left out in the cold as the Lyceum Theatre becomes central to Stoker’s life. Not to mention attending to the whims of Sir Henry Irving, an equally all-consuming occupation, the main qualification for which seems to be the ability to consume large quantities of alcohol. I loved the descriptions of the theatrical performances and all the backstage goings on. There is a great episode where Oscar Wilde attends a performance and provokes a very raucous after show party. The author also throws in some supernatural elements and it’s all set against the backdrop of a London stalked by Jack the Ripper. The last, quite long, section of the book transports the reader ahead a number of years and has a distinctly melancholy tone as age and infirmity catch up with the main characters. I found the end of the book poignant and rather moving. I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Anna Chancellor and Barry McGovern. To be fair, the latter does the majority of the narration with Anna Chancellor contributing a couple of sections purporting to be recordings of Ellen Terry’s recollections of Sir Henry Irving. These are wickedly funny and delivered in Anna Chancellor’s inimitable style. Where Ellen Terry appears elsewhere in the book, she is voiced by Barry McGovern rather than by Anna Chancellor, even in chapters told from the point of view of Ellen Terry. However, I can’t fault Barry McGovern’s representation of the rich, plummy tones of Sir Henry Irving or the soft Irish lilt of Bram Stoker. Shadowplay is inventive, imaginative and full of Gothic atmosphere. I can definitely see why it has earned a place on The Walter Scott Prize shortlist.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

special

the best audio book I've ever experienced. Language, nostalgia relived, a great bad luvee and narrators born for the job.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Narrator fantastic

This was a beautifully written book. Narrators brilliant at bringing the words to life- even doing accents. Thoroughly enjoyed.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Immense

What a beautiful novel. My first O’Connor work and certainly not my last. Stoker is such a great voice, sad, funny, poetic. He is surrounded by interesting lives, and such a hilarious character as Irving, one of the funniest I have read. McGovern delivers him so well it is almost a play.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

More Hearts and Loves than Stakes

I bought the hard-copy of this book and the audiobook after hearing the briefest of description on the radio, and I am so pleased that I did. This is a really rewarding listen/read both in terms of the relationships involving the characters, and also the ‘teasings’ concerning how much written about in this novel is reflected in Bram Stoker’s 1897 ‘Dracula’. I enjoyed the dialogue which never fails to hit the mark and frequently sparkles – but that does not mean it is always pretty. Some of the narrative is genuinely poetic. And at other times it can – to this listener at least – seem dense. The mix of narrative methods to carry the story along is welcomed, though there are times when a change of place or time can come quickly between lines and can give a surprise or a slight stumble. (Having the book in your hand easily recovers that.) The main novel’s frame and its coda (coda some 50 pages) I initially questioned. This was probably because I wanted more of the ‘meat’ of the goings on in the time the three lead characters were at the Lyceum Theatre together. I soon got over that and found the coda added considerably to the overall enjoyment of the book. I liked the loves, and the question of when people are really themselves or not; the regrets, and the forgiveness. The audiobook was very good though it did give me some niggling difficulties. The performer’s (Barry McGovern) narration speed at 1.0 was too slow for me and I had to reset the speed to 1.25 - such a boon with Audible. Because there are narrative changes to time or place, if only listening there is a good chance of a miss-step, I was pleased I had Audible 30 second play-back as well the book to hand. I disliked Anna Chancellor’s small contributions as the voice of Ellen Terry as these seemed wholly out of sympathy to the way that the character in the main narrative and performance is shown, but this is minor. The voicing of Henry Irving is a true delight. I was disappointed that the book’s ‘Caveat, Bibliography, Acknowledgements’ were not included in the audiobook - even in abbreviated form - as this denies the listener some real things of interest. A listen that will cause you to speculate.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful tale

I was bowled over by this tale of three of the stalwarts of Victorian theatre. Set against a backdrop of the crimes of Jack the Ripper, Victorian social etiquette and the politics of the theatre, the narrative explores the careers and intertwined relationships of Henry Irving, Ellen Terry and Bram Stoker. The writing and narration are both superb and I thoroughly recommend it to lovers of historical fiction. Truly a 5* novel.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Enjoyable and absorbing

Brilliantly written and narrated, I really enjoyed this book and it’s links through the Victorian/Edwardian days of the London theatre world and events of the time.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Story and performance both first rate

This is one of the finest audiobooks I have ever listened to, both the story and the performance were first rate. Compelling, compassionate. I have never read Dracula but I am going to now!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Totally brilliant!

Fascinating narrative, superb narration, imaginative and absorbing dialogue. What a story! The characters really came alive –I am so sorry to have reached the end of the book.

1 person found this helpful