Sunday 7 August 2016

PODCAST REVIEW: Storytelling in the digital age

This review originally appeared in The Tribune on August 5.

There are many ways to tell stories – and this week's podcast review takes a look at three very different shows with stories at their heart.


Take your mind on a road trip. Try out Entwined, available on iTunes, which peers into the backstory of our own world, and how different strands are connected. The episode I listened to took a loving look at the land of dust, railways and hobos around Bakersfield, following the paths of different individuals who became oil barons, teachers at Yale, or got locked up in prison. There's a real love of Americana here, and the strands as they entwine really show some of the strengths of the nation, softly yet boldly spoken in that phrase about it being a land of opportunity. One key moment is almost heartbreaking, with the moment that Merle Haggard, the songwriter, tells Johnny Cash that he remembered being at one of his prison shows. Cash cocks an eyebrow back at Haggard saying he doesn't remember him being part of that show, to which Haggard replies that he was in the audience.
The show packs a lot in, but it's a polished production, with expert pacing from the show hosts, Elliot Gladstone and PS McKay. There's no rush despite the fairly short length of the show, and I couldn't help but feel that, coming away from it, I had a picture painted for me giving a glimpse of the world that birthed Steinbeck and the Blues.

Word Count

A disclaimer on this next show – I know two of those involved in it, but as that's how I discovered the show, it seems only fair that I give it a listen!
R B Wood's Word Count podcast is a way of bringing new authors to your attention – right to your ears, in fact. The show features authors reading their own work. Often, the host sets a challenge to authors to come up with something based around certain words, but this time he set people off with a starting sentence of “I was enjoying the summer holiday when...”
It's kind of like one of those old end of school summer holiday projects, but in the hands of talented authors, it goes soaring off in different directions. Rob Edwards takes us on a jaunt through time via longing and ice cream, Maria Haskins offers up a more poignant, thoughtful piece that rewards close attention, while I thanked the heavens for my familiarity with the Irish accent on C Thomas Smith's darkly funny Doomsday tale.
The audio is sometimes great, sometimes not so great, as it depends on the quality of recording sent in by the authors – the piece by Bill Kirton is particularly choppy in the sound levels – but it's worth sticking with it even when the audio warbles a bit.
It's a lovely way to discover new authors – and hearing their own delivery of their work makes it more personal, more involving. Edwards and Haskins I had already encountered, but I will definitely be looking up more by C Thomas Smith and Eden Baylee after this show. A treat to enjoy with a good drink and a quiet house.


The Bright Sessions

The Bright Sessions is an oddity. Throw in one part psychology and one part weird fiction and there sits the show. It plays out as a series of short, 15 to 20 minute episodes in which a psychiatrist interviews a number of different subjects, each of which is there for therapy... but each of which has something else, something unusual that is plaguing them. Is the woman who says she can travel through time telling the truth, or suffering from a delusion? What about the man who feels himself battered by the emotions he senses from others around him? The production quality is great, the voice acting spot on, and the pacing just right. Neatly done, and not overstated, the show has just the right amount of unnerving possibility to it to make cold fingers trail across the back of your neck.

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