Big Finish: I, JACOBI - IN CONVERSATION WITH DEREK JACOBI Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Matthew Kresal reviews the latest Big Finish in Conversation release...
When one thinks of Big Finish's truly prolific audio drama output, you're as likely to think of the caliber of actors they attract as the various franchises for which they produce stories. Indeed, some of the biggest surprises have been getting actors ranging from Tom Baker to John Hurt and Derek Jacobi to reprise their roles from Doctor Who. Having attracted such talent, Big Finish has also managed to get a few of them to sit down for conversations taking in their careers and roles outside of Doctor Who. Derek Jacobi is the latest participant in this "Big Finish in Conversation" series, now out on download from the company as I, Jacobi.

Jacobi, who recently turned 83, certainly has plenty to talk about over the nearly three-hour running time. Interviewed by Big Finish stalwart the writer/director/producer Scott Handcock, who had worked with Jacobi on the company's War Master range, this is a journey through those decades and the six that Jacobi has spent as a professional actor. One that takes in everything from a childhood taking place alongside the Second World War to Cambridge and into the theatre and beyond, including the iconic BBC costume drama I, Claudius (whose title, of course, is played upon for this release). Doctor Who and Big Finish come up only briefly, as perhaps they should, given everything that Jacobi has done along the way.

I, Jacobi, is no dry recitation of Jacobi's life and times, however. Far from it, in fact, thanks in part to Jacobi himself. Unsurprising for a man whose range includes awards for performing Shakespearean tragedies and an Emmy for a guest appearance on the US sitcom Fraiser, Jacobi is a delightful storyteller. Whether he's relating tales from his childhood, comparing acting on stage with film and television, or working with the likes of Laurence Olivier, Peter O'Toole, and Kenneth Branagh, Jacobi brings a sense of wit and an awareness of how lucky he's been to have worked for so long. There are poignant moments, as well, from experiencing stage fright during a run of Hamlet that Jacobi to avoid stage work for years to the passing of his mother, the latter of which is likely to leave listeners as choked up as Jacobi becomes.

The conversational tone of I, Jacobi is also owed to its interviewer. Scott Handcock does what every good interviewer ought to do: help the person they're talking with bring out the best stories and anecdotes. Handcock and Jacobi have a strong working relationship, allowing Handcock to ask the actor about stories and things that Jacobi has mentioned during his time with Big Finish. Handcock also shows off the research he's done, surprising Jacobi at times with how much digging he's done.

All of which ultimately leaves I, Jacobi as a thoroughly fascinating listen. One that sees interviewee and interviewer alike bringing out some wonderful stories from the life and career of the legendary actor. For fans of Jacobi's work or with an interest in British drama, this release is insightful, funny, and poignant in places to listen to. Not to mention highly recommended.

I, Jacobi - In Conversation with Derek Jacobi is available to purchase from the Big Finish website.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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