Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Depth Charge

An ancient submariner finds himself underwater.
For this old sailor the sea is a lot rougher on dry land.

The pain of estrangement from his only son & the desire to please his wife with a new freezer, that is beyond the budget, sets the drama in motion.
A young shark smells emotional blood and swims in to take advantage.
David Calder is quite convincing and sympathetic as the old sailor in Fiona Mackie's well crafted, satisfying, and distressingly timely drama.

It serves as a individual case study of the debt crisis that is currently of global significance.

Depth Charge The Afternoon Play BBC Radio 4 is only available until Aug. 6, 2010.

Will Earstory ever get around to reviewing anything other than BBC plays?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hive Mind

Hive Mind By Simon Bovey is an outstanding radio play. Simon Bovey, within the package of near future speculative fiction, packs a lot of present day issues into the 45 minute BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play slot. His jumping off point is the recent questions of the stability of the global bee populations. He, in a quick sentence, sets up a situation in 2019 where the bees are no more. He quickly reports the causes of this, which are the ones that are today generally being assumed, and charges forward into the gloomy aftermath with food shortages and farmers struggling to pollenate by other means including human workers going from plant to plant.

Enter the big corporation with a new product, computer controlled robotic bees.

Simon Bovey wisely sets all this within one small farm, where we get to meet and care about the human factor in what otherwise could have been treated as a big impersonal story. This is exactly the way to create a political, eco justice, drama that the average listener is likely to become engaged in and Bovey accomplishes a masterful turn in this one.
Here we have, big corporate agriculture issues (think Monsanto), automation, labor relations, ecology, the struggles of a small business and they are all fitted neatly into the 45 minute time slot without feeling rushed or glossed over, but presented in a very entertaining dramatic package.

Sadly only available for listening until Monday July 26, 2010, so get to Hive Mind while you can.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Reluctant Millionaire

One of the many good things about radio drama is that, in comparison to more expensive sound and vision media, the turn around time from conception to completion can be rather short. For the past year or two BBC's Radio 4 The Afternoon Play slot has had a few plays set in and dealing with the current depression. It is that TV and movies get money to produce from wealth and therefore does not want to face the current crisis other than making fun of the trashy poor, or that they have projects still involved in years of development?
The production money for Radio 4 drama content comes from the BBC which is not chained to corporate dreams of profit or from the wealthy with excess cash that they might not wish to be used to provide us with a look at the dark side of the status quo.

The Reluctant Millionaire by Wendy Oberman is one of these post depression dramas. Here we visit a hairdresser whose business is down and debt unmanageable. Finding a lost winning lottery ticket brings a moral dilemma to the hairdresser and her war vet husband. Wounded war veterans might be another topic corporate media might be reluctant to look into, especially when we continue the ask soldiers to go over there in endless costly wars. This play does not preach. It's just a little story about normal people struggling to get by.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Understanding

This Radio 4 Afternoon Play by P. G. Morgan is very nicely done. It is presented as part of ". . .a new series of Radio 4's Inside The Ethics Committee. . ." which begins this week.

Here we have issues of medical intervention, religious restrictions on such, the understanding between the patient and doctor, before and during the procedures, and the united front of belief between a husband and wife. All of it is expertly handled with post procedural interviews and flashbacks to the life and death hospital moments. This is a complex but lucid, gripping drama of emotions, faith, ethics and beliefs.

The questions of medical ethics are only going to be more confusing as powerful and costly methods continue to be discovered. We may find more and more of us reaching a point when we have to decide when we believe enough is enough. Or is that going to be just when whatever health insurance, state or private, will refuse to play the enormous bills for more?
This play deals with complications of childbirth and a religious faith that does not include blood transfusion.

Is playwright P. G. Morgan a man or woman?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Of Mice And Men

Up this week form BBC Radio 4 Classic Serial is an hour long adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice And Men. Having viewed a couple movie adaptations of this and now listened to the radio play, I came away wondering what more there is in the original novel. I find my self excited to consume the latest adaptation, but afterwards feeling a little disappointed in how stark and melodramatic the story is. There must be something more n the novel.

Don't get me wrong, this version written by Donna Franceschild is just fine, but if you know the story you kind of know the story. And the story is a dark one bathed in California 1930s migrant worker sunlight. Listening to this version, I found myself wondering what to make of the plot, what is the point of the story. Is it a monster story? (Pre-monster Lon Chaney Jr. played him in the excellent 1939 Hal Roach production.) It is a story of innocent , dumb sensuality, and lust in the form of the mostly gentle Lennie, who is lethal to none but the soft things he loves to touch. It is true that you only hurt the one you love?

Of Mice and Men is available to stream through March 19, 2010. It's a good little production, especially suited to those who have not heard the story before.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Buffalo Bill and Little Matty Dyer

Buffalo Bill and Little Matty Dyer by Peter Spafford is a period piece that feels like it has been a bit injected with the a type of political consciousness from several decades later. I say "feels" because I have no knowledge of what a 14 year old boy in Leeds would understand about anything. That said it remains an engaging play about a Buffalo Bill Wild West Show tour of England in 1903. Buffalo Bill Wild West Show was an entertainment that toured the US and Europe from 1883 and for roughly the next 39 years.

Peter Spafford presents a backstage story with minor players becoming involved with the some of the locals in Leeds. There is the fact of the continuous injustice to the American Indians, some of whom are players in the show, and continue to have trouble within the troop and with local discrimination. I have no idea if in reality the traveling players would be so involved with the locals, as Little Matty Dyer is in the play, but the notion does afford an opportunity for an entertaining and slightly pleasantly didactic play.

Buffalo Bill and Little Matty Dyer is well produced and performed, setting the mood of time and place, Definitely worth a listen, but probably off the BBC iPlayer Listen Again by the time you read this.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our Mutual Friend

Earstory is enjoying the 20 part adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel Our Mutual Friend currently playing on BBC Radio 4. It is three quarters of the way through with five fifteen-minute episodes left to play this week.

There are a lot characters and it is not always easy to follow the action and determine who is who. Plus the thing is a mystery of sorts so it is sometimes hard to determine what is supposed to be known, what has been missed and what has been confused. In spite of all that, or because of, it is a fascinating listen, well performed, with wonderful scenes and exotic somewhat deprived, and sad characters. Well, you know, Dickens.
The fortune build on a stinking garbage heap it just a brillient jumping off point for this wonderful, crazy story of a miserable city and sad people just trying to somehow get by.

Roger Goula adds to the atmosphere, his beautiful sad woodwinds, and piano.
The adaptation is by BBC Radio drama regular Mike Walker

BBC is doing something new with this series and others. Before it would only keep the streams up for a week, But now it is possible to catch-up with the whole series while it still runs. Earstory thinks this is a great move and really supports it.
There is a survey on the bottom of this page about this change. take a minute to answer the questions, it might help to encourage the BBC the continue this sort of thing.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Loop

This is a very fine entertainment.
The Loop by Nick Perry is a conceptually clever, brilliantly executed, and ultimately very satisfying science fiction drama.

The story has to do with a frustrated single parent writer, a character who shares the playwright's name, who has himself a poorly paying assignment to write an installment of the Afternoon Play. He is also a recent widower and has a four-year-old son.
His son likes to play with the mobile phone and somehow hits a loop into the future. I know it sounds ridiculous, but believe me the writing, characters, and performances are so strong that it is easy to suspend disbelief and go along for a very enjoyable ride.

A must for Twilight Zone fans and anyway else who loves a good play.
Not to be missed.

It is only available through Tuesday Nov, 24th 2009.

It would be lovely if the BBC would extend this streaming window. With The Woman's Hour Drama Our Mutual Friend current playing out in 20 episodes, the BBC has decided to leave the whole thing available until the end. This is a great move. Here's hoping that they do it for other plays.

Forty-Three Fifty-Nine - Wake

The "Occasional Series" Forty-Three Fifty-Nine is usually concerned with suspense drama. The idea it to have a play that fits, real-time, into the Forty-Three Fifty-Nine minute time slot of The Afternoon Play. The first one was literally a ticking time bomb, the second as I recall had something to do with a poisoning or some such, both were quite dark and good.

With this one, Wake by Katie Hims, it's as if the producers suddenly discovered that they could just as well have a real-time comedy. All of them have been on the go, not locked into one location. In Wake we begin with a mother and daughter in transit. they are an odd pair, the mother thinks she looks like Marilyn Monroe with her wig and dark glasses. The daughter puts up with her apparent madness and deception.

They eventually arrive at their destination, a home with a wake, a dead body on display in one of the rooms. But the people in the house don't seem to know them. They claim to be long lost cousins or some such. From this point on things get interesting, there is some indiscrete fast and sleazy romance and some interesting revelations.
The other two Forty-Three Fifty-Nine plays were hits and this one is too. Let's hope there are more soon. It's an interesting format for drama AND comedy.
Only available tonight Nov. 22, 2009, online.

The Secret Place

I know that Earstory often seems like The Afternoon Play review, or even promotional blog. But the thing is I like the 44 minute length of the plays and this week they are of unusually high quality.

Clare Bayley's The Secret Place is the story of a woman who in the course of helping a lifer in prison for murder falls in love and marries him behind bars. But this is not at all the heart-warming do-gooder social action type drama that it appears to be and starts out as. It is a romance-suspense drama.

The play brings to mind why some people want to have the control of a relationship at a distance, be it someone who is a far off Facebook "Friend", or in this case one who is safely incarcerated. What happens when that Facebook romance suddenly shows up at the door and is not exactly what they gave the impression that they were?

Well, this is a fine romance! And a frightening one.

The Secret Place is available until through Monday Nov. 23, 2009.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Radio Hollywood

The BBC Radio 4 Archive Hour has a special treat this week for fans of classic USA radio drama. It takes a look at The Lux Radio Theater. The hour long live radio drama show ran from 1935 to 1954 each week presenting radio play versions of popular movies of the day, performed by major Hollywood stars, but often not the same ones who appeared in the original movies. Like the Alan Ladd version of Casablanca, replacing Bogart.

The Archive Hour presenter, Jeffrey Richards tells us how and why the program was created. The program was the invention of the J Walter Thompson Advertising agency in service of their client Lux Soap. Richards also informs us that the program, through it's long history, had a way of also selling certain values such as "The Family". Listening to some of the programs today, one can feel a certain wholesomeness that is not so apparent in some other commercial shows of the era such as Suspense, The Whistler, Inner Sanctum, or Quiet Please.
It really shows how the mass entertainment mediums, radio first, and then television helped form American's view of itself in the advertiser's image. Richards only suggests this. He doesn't explore it deeply. That is not the purpose of Radio Hollywood.

But what we have is a fine hour about the program with many interesting and amusing stories and excerpts. My favorite was how longtime host Cecil B. DeMille was booted off the show after a dispute with the American Federation of Radio Artists (AFRA).

Many of the original recordings of the Lux Radio Theater are available on the Internet Archive. Give them and the fine BBC Radio 4 Archive Hour a listen. The Archive Hour is available until Sunday Nov. 22, 2009.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Granny Green's Green Machine

In a slight departure Earstory is today listening to a new album of music for children available on Amazon and other places:

Granny Green's Green Machine combines entertainment with a positive message.

If you have children I think they will giggle every time they hear The Wiggle Worm Wiggle with its silly worm backing vocal choirs. I bet you didn't know worms had voices did you? Well they do, and can carry a tune!

The positive message is that we are all in this together, even the bugs, plants, trees, & animals.
Granny Green shows us that what we do, how we live, in the simplest easiest & fun ways, can make a fundamental difference. This is a song collection filled with awe of the natural and youthful hope for the future. The message is within the entertainment, in the artistry of the songs.
Armed with her ukulele and clear and direct voice Granny introduces a cast of creatures; polar bear, butterfly, wiggle worm, bumblebee, and mama manatee.
There are also elements, such as in Rain is Falling, the very beautiful final song of the set.

The craft of the songs will also subliminally instruct children and adults how a fine song is created. Granny Green does not talk down to her audience, she speaks to them.

I think mothers, and fathers, will be particularly moved by The Butterfly Lullaby with its subtext about letting go, an excellent song and performance.

I hope to see the live version of the Granny Green show, with it's puppets and audience participation.

Here is Granny Green's Myspace.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Broad Channel & the Audio Option

Here are some thoughts on attending a new play reading last night. The play was called Broad Channel by James Bosley. It is not really fair to review a play reading, but I will say that it was quite good. It is a story about international, cross-generational, art theft. A working class American family has the art and has had it for a two generations. An upper-class European woman wants it back.

Since this was a reading, and not a staged one, with actors standing in place. I decided to experience most of it with my eyes closed, as if it were a radio play. That worked out quite well. The play would make an effective radio production. But the thing is, it probably never will be produced for audio. It is doubtful that the audio option is even considered by most USA playwrights. A play in the USA, if it is lucky, has a life of being produced in the theater, or adapted to film. If neither of these work out the play is a dead paper entirety. Professional audio theater has been more or less dead in the USA for about 50 years so it is understandable that it is not considered. This is a shame. This play, when heard with eyes closed, came alive and would afford itself quite nicely to audio production. It was not necessary to see the painting in question, the house of the working class family, the cut of the art investigator's suit. All these things can be easily seen in the mind of the imaginative listener.

But that will never happen. Here it is all or nothing. A play is produced in a theater, or made into a film (very unlikely in this case). Those are the options and that's it. If the play can't get a production in theater or film/TV it is dead, type on paper or a text file in memory. Theater, film/video productions are costly enterprises and most plays sit in a drawer somewhere like a unemployed actor, waiting for the phone to ring. Audio production is very inexpensive in comparison and should be considered in many cases. We have LA Theater Works, but they can only get to a few plays and they must have an expensive overhead too with the insistence on recording with a live audience.

It is time for an explosion of professionally audio drama in the USA. With the advent of the iPod and such devices, why can't commuters be listening to a good play rather than music. Of course there are rights, union, and ownership issues. But these can be resolved somehow to the satisfaction of all, somehow, after no doubt a good deal of haggling. We can't let art suffer behind the need to make a buck, can we? (Well, or course we can and do, but let's hope for better.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ivan and the Dogs

Here is a very good Afternoon Play.

Ivan and the Dogs by Hattie Naylor tells the story of a young boy living on the street in Moscow. The story is narrated by Ivan and perfectly played by Tom Glenister.

Ivan is a sort of Russian version of Oliver Twist, and just as endearing . Ivan is smart, careful, and observant. He can read the eyes of those who wish to exploit him and avoids them. He doesn't fall in with the gang of other street boys with their glue. He passes up being befriended by a man offering our very hungry boy ice cream.
But he picks the best friends a street boy could have, a pack of stray dogs.
Forget Lassie with the clean rural comfort. These dogs are surely thin, mangy, mean and flee-bitten. But they are Ivan's friends. He talks to the animals and is one of the pack, finally accepted. There are a couple exciting satisfying scenes were the pack comes to the rescue.

Hattie cleverly constructs her play script so that our dear Ivan speaks English with a British accent. This helps to bring us closer to him as opposed to having him speak English with a Russian accent. The authentic feel is provided by the rest of the cast speaking Russian with Ivan translating for us in his narration.
Sarah Moody's cello adds to the mood and augments the story without at all calling attention to itself.
The production is directed by Paul Dodgson.

Ivan and the Dogs BBC Radio 4 is The Afternoon Play at its very best.
Available on the BBC iPlayer through Wed Nov. 11, 2009.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Brian May's 3-D Village

BBC Radio 4 has an interesting offering, especially for those of us interested in 3D photography. I have been a 35 mm 1950's "Realist" format stereo photographer for some years (a bit inactive in that area of late), so I found this edition of the Open Country program, Brian May's 3-D Village, of particular interest.

This program primarily discusses the work of one T. R. Williams and his work photographing the everyday life in the village of Hinton Waldrist in the 1850s.
There is, along the way, a chat with noted modern 3D photographer David Burder who discusses the history of the craft and shifting tides of it's popularity. Some people and not really aware that 3D photography goes back to the very beginning of photography, over 150 years.

It all serves as fine intro to 3D photography which is now enjoying new popularity with the resent fashion for digital 3D presentations of popular movies in the cinema.

Catch the program this week on Open Country.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Film Courage With Ted Hope

New York based independent film producer Ted Hope has an impressive list of credits in the twenty years of his career.

This installment of Film Courage hosted by Karen Worden & David Branin features an interview with Mr. Hope. He tells the story of how he get interested in film, found his way into the New York independent business, worked hard (and I know he worked hard), learned how films are really made, and embarked on his career as a movie producer.

His passion for film continues and it comes through the internet and the phone lines in this program. He also addresses the use of social media as an essential tool for the 21 Century filmmaker and his blog Truly Free Film.

To succeed at anything, any creative work, that work needs to become play.
This installment of Film Courage is an inspirational hour. Give it a listen.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


The title of this play refers to a type of sea bird. Cormorant is about a couple of men shipwrecked on a deserted island. They are without food and must try to kill the birds to survive. John, is the one who attempts the hunting while salty and demanding McKinney gets the bulk of the meat.

The play starts on the island but quickly moves on to life after the ordeal. John is suffering from a strange sort of post traumatic disorder. He is having dreams, nightmares that take him back to the island. He sets himself apart, he chooses to live in a rooming house owned by a suspicious unpleasant woman. Next door is a very odd fellow, a musician and conspiracy theorist named Crow who becomes interested in his new neighbor, John, who only wants to be left alone.

This play is an hour long, but it moves along so briskly that it feels much shorter.

It is simple in that it is not overloaded with characters and voices that one has to struggle to keep straight. It also has some good music and songs that are supposed to be those of Crow.
Cormorant is by Sarah Hutchings and Hil Cooke and directed by Catriona Ryan.

The Wireless Theatre Company offers it as a free download. This is a grown up entertainment which is to say it is not for very small children. some of the content is a bit unpleasant. It's well written produced and acted, even with the very odd voicing of the Crow character.

The Wireless Theatre Company is the best internet audio drama production companies. Their product is professional, and original. One can't go wrong with The Wireless Theatre Company.

Filthy Rich

Filthy Rich by Michael Butt, directed by Sasha Yevtushenko is a very enjoyable mystery. We have a pair of young adult brother and sister twins who have always had a, not so out of the ordinary, complicated relationship. But after momma and pappa die in an automobile accident leaving a substantial fortune, things get very complicated indeed.
Grandmamma is named executor of the will, and it also states that the twins must not fight, must get along for a five year period, and only then will they receive their inheritance.
The story is told from the point of view of Max, delightfully well played by William Beck. Max is a good guy and one wants things to work out nicely for him. Various seductive and potentially dangerous characters are introduced.
Max, and the audience must figure out who is a friendly, and who is in the game for only the benefit of themselves or a ruthless agent of another.

Michael Butt's lucid, entertaining play takes us through the twists and turns in playfully sinister style.
This BBC Radio 4 The Afternoon Play offering is very will produced and a delight to listen to.

Only available online until Monday Oct. 26. 2009. It would be nice if the BBC would stream their programs a little bit longer. A month? Would they settle for at least two weeks?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Here is a satisfying play about bullying presented by the always solid and professional The Wireless Theatre Company.

Tuning the Tide in a multigenerational story told through the voice of the father of a teen boy. The father never learn to stand up for himself and still doesn't on the job.

The father teaches and learns from the son in Gareth Brownbill's entertaining and well performed life lesson.

This is a free download from The Wireless Theatre Company and well worth you time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tech Notes

First of all I want to state that after complaining about the BBC iPlayer, I am now pleased to report that it is working fine for me.
I've been using it via Firefox on my Mac. It plays just fine now, without a stutter or pause even if I do a lot of browsing with Safari which I open at the same. I also use Audio Hijack to open Firefox. This affords me the opportunity to record the content which so I can listen to plays on a portable digital audio player while working out or whatever.
So that is the happy ending to the iPlayer story.

Meanwhile I now have a new iPod Nano.
This is my very first iPod. I skipped buying one years ago when I was in the market for my first digital audio player because the iPods never had a radio. The iRiver did, so I got one of those and have been using it ever since. But finally this summer the iRiver was beginning to show it's age. The radio tuner would not work or only intermittently. Just as I was getting ready to look for something new, Apple released the new iPod Nano (5G) which had a radio, video recording. This was perfect for me since I also like to shoot some video.
So I got one and I love it. The radio is the best I've had in a portable devise. It is better than the tuner in the iRiver. The tuner in the iPod Nano holds the signal very well as I walk around the canyons of Manhattan. The video is really fun too. I love my new toy and am happy that it came just in time.

So now there should be more posts here. I no longer can rely on technical excuses.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Forty-Three Fifty-Nine- Assassins

Forty-Three Fifty-Nine- Assassins is the third Forty-Three Fifty-Nine play I've heard . Forty-Three Fifty-Nine is the time length of BBC Radio 4, The Afternoon Play time slot in which the programs have been presented. In this, like the other two plays, the drama plays out in real time.
Assassins by John Dryden and Mike Walker is about a father who is a hit man and his daughter to whom he is passing down the family business. We enter on a conversation between these two as they head for a job. They seem, normal, pleasant enough, and as these two are all we know here at the outset, the play works to direct our sympathy toward them. The subdued direct performances of Henry, Rob Jarvis and Cathy, Meghan Haggerty, in a particularly deadpan turn, drawn us into their ultimately despicable world.

They arrive at the location of the day's job. It is a lavish estate with a high hedge and a private beach. It is the home of a hedge fund manager. Henry social engineers his way into the house and but ultimately raises the suspicion of Bryant, his soon to be victim.
Everything goes horrible wrong after that. This is where the moral ambiguity of the play serves the production. We like the hit man and his daughter and want things to work out for them in spite of their unsupportable criminal behavior. The conversation between Henry and Cathy is particularly sinister. Deadpan Cathy asks her dad, what are you going to do now? When he says sometime one has to improvise when things don't go as planned, as things get even worse, Cathy quietly throws it back at him, well I guess you'll have to improvise dad.

This is a fine production. Performances, script, sound design, all top grade.

The tone of the play, as we are riding with the killers, brings to mind the delight of the long running classic radio drama anthology series The Whistler. This show plays like a very good episode of The Whistler. I quite like The Whistler. Great lowlife noir fun.

BTW: The notorious BBC iPlayer functioned perfectly on this one. I used Foxfire. It played without pause. I guess it is safe for me to jump back into the BBC Radio 4 waters now. This is a good thing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

BBC iPlayer Again

Well, I guess I'm just old fashioned, can't deal with change, but I really did enjoy BBC Radio streaming far more before they launched the iPlayer Console. The Realplayer streams worked great. The iPlayer, linked as it is to a browser, has never really worked out well for me.
I mean, I might like to browse other sites while listening to the BBC content instead of having to open an dedicated browser for listening and even then sometime having it stop, pause, while I'm doing things on another browser.
So my ultimate opinion is BBC iPlayer= Double + Ungood.

On the other hand it is not a big tragedy to miss a week of the X Files-sih Torchwood on the Afternoon Play slot. I heard one and was rather underwhelmed.
Alright I'll give Chameleon a go, why not?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Amusing Grace

Misfits Audio presents Amusing Grace. This is a full length play presented in five parts, five separate downloads. It was recorded at University of Toronto with a live audience in 2000, so we have something here that is almost 9 years old.

It's a play about two lonely old people who live in the same building and meet on the roof where they play Trivial Pursuit. This set up immediately brings to mind a very famous and successful play D. L Coburn's The Gin Game. It is unfortunate that Amusing Grace shares this immediate opening similarity, especially when it invites comparison with The Gin Game a very good and well known play.
Is it possible that Amusing Grace's Neville J. Bryant was unaware of The Gin Game? Or did he just see it as a situation he wished to explore in spite of the obvious similarity?

At any rate Amusing Grace is an entertaining, gentle listen. It features a very good and convincing leading performance by Hasel Dalgleish as Grace. Too bad she did not have a performer of equal ability in Jim Hooper as Danny. Hooper simply never comes off as a 78 year old man. His voice has too much of the tenor, not quite grow up, sort of Ira Glass sound. All in the head, nothing resonating in the old body which would have been nice to hear in this particular role. He is just too adolescent sounding. Not only that his readings too often sound like reading, are not felt. It is a shame because Hasel Dalgleish is so fine and deserved a much better sparring partner.

That said it is really a rather amusing listen. It is pleasant to spend some time with these folks on their rooftop. The scenes are framed by some very nice music by the play's author Mr. Bryant. It might have been good if he went ahead and made it a nice little musical play.
Anyway, it is all worth a listen and good to hear an amateur audio drama involved with issues, themes, more homebound rather than all the fantasy, and TV space opera stuff.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Something is happening at WBAI.
It's a little hard to find out what.
Maybe some reader here will tell me where to go for info.
The station has been ailing for a very long time and is having a lot of trouble making money.
There is continuous factional infighting there that further poisons the atmosphere.
It is really too bad it has to be this way. Perhaps with the new shake-up a new day will dawn.
I like to listen to some of their stuff:
The Golden Age of Radio
Talk Back (occasionally)
Off the Hook
Doug Henwood
David Rothenberg
Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade
The Positive Mind
Taking Aim

Stiles on your dials

The great New York East Village neighborhood blog E V Grieve has a nice piece today about long time NYC DJ radio personality Danny Stiles.
Check it out.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Iceman Goeth

The Iceman Goeth recounts how Ian Holm has actually experienced the actor's worst nightmare more than once in real life in front of a full house.

This play by Steve Jacobi tells the tale through interviews with Holm and flashback dramatizations. This reviewer loves particularly loves The Iceman Cometh (obviously) which adds to the appeal since several lines from the great O'Neill play are included.

The play documentary is also little inconclusive feeling. Did Holm actually never appear on stage again, only on film, after the events of 1976? That is the implication.
The backstage gossip and banter is fun to listen to. It's is a fast paced interesting entertainment.
The Iceman Goeth: The Afternoon Play BBC Radio 4

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A City Killing

With this BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play writer Mike Walker explores the hedge fund world. This is right up to the minute sort of topical theater. We have been getting few of these in the last few months. The best of the lot has been Development by Doug Lucie, which told a more personal family story set in tough economic times. This one has elements of the Madoff case. In a way it might fulfill the fantasy of some looking for a comeuppance for Mr. Madoff and his type.

There is a good scene where our protagonist goes to visit a very dreamy Bob Glass, the Madoffish character. Glass talks about wanting to be close to nature, and other very rudimentary sort of philosophical things. It is the simple minded babble of one who lived completely outside of the real world, someone who only cared about making money. The scene reminds of a convict coming to Christ while in the can. But Glass is too much a sophisticated NY'er to go for Jesus. so it is nature and the ocean instead.
In this play "the little guy" makes no appearance. This is all about the powerful people who apparently with the winning combination of ignorance and greed have put many of us in a very bad position.

I really do like these new depression dramas and hope the BBC keeps them coming. I have a feeling that they are going to have a long shelf life, a lot longer that a lot of us are going to be comfortable with.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Positive Mind

Host Armand DiMele presents a program of psychological discussion Tuesday through Thursday at 1pm on WBAI 99.5 fm in New York.

Today's show featured Dr. Michael Bader talking about his book "Male Sexuality: Why Women Don't Understand It--And Men Don't Either ".

This is all about what goes on in the mind, with the emotions, and how these things effect relationship and sexuality.

They talk about such issues as why some men are attracted to large breasts and what is the meaning of certain fantasies. Also the use and possible abuse of pornography and its meaning.

It is stated that men simply can not feel emotionally certain things that women do. Boys and girls are different.

It gets more interesting late in the program when they discuss what happens and the pitfalls that are involved with trying to please the other person, the partner. Is it better to not try to please at all. Why do some men use prostitutes? How is attraction negatively effected by familiarity? By responsibility and duty?

The Positive Mind is a good show. This is an outstanding episode 01-27-2009.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Prayer for Owen Meany

I try to be positive, really, I do. I don't like to complain about things I don't find interesting, that don't move me. I usually just ignore them and hope for something more interesting coming next. But this one is such a big long production that I thought I would say something about it.

I listened to the first two parts of the BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play "A Prayer for Owen Meany" and I think I'm just going to have to bail out here after an hour and a half, not take in the other 2hrs. 15mins.

The thing is, if the production can't grab or at least somewhat engage my interest in the first hour and a half I figure all is pretty much lost and the show is not for me. Maybe it is for someone else, it's a nice production and all aside from the voice of the title character, but after all that time I don't care about any of the people in the play and anything they are doing. And that voice! It is a little like the kid named Froggy in the really bad Our Gang Comedies, the ones in the 40s after Hal Roach sold the series to MGM and Spanky was too old. Owen sounds just like that kid, well almost, or at least it is an annoying and poorly imagined voice which could have somehow been much better not that this alone makes or brakes the show. And Toby Jones is a good actor.

So it anyone thinks it gets really great later on and I should listen to it, well, I probably still won't but I would love to hear your opinion anyway

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hella Fabulous

And now for something completely different.
There is an internet radio station located in a glass booth in a street level storefront on 1st Ave in Manhattan's East Village. The space is part of a restaurant called Lil' Frankie's.
As a pubic service the restaurant supports the internet radio called East Village Radio.
East Village Radio is a freewheeling affair. The day is broken up into two hour slots that are programmed by the DJ hosts. Of course this means that the programming is delightfully various. It's properly listed under "Eclectic" in the "Radio" section of iTunes.

On Wednesday morning from 8 to 10 New York time East Village Radio features
Hella Fabulous. This show involves mostly conversation between two young women, Hella & Ruth.

It's a little hard to discern the appeal of these two. A lot of time involves talking dirty as one can only do on internet radio. But the thing is it is all mostly about trying to figure out how the language works in these usually forbidden zones. It is often a lexical comedy show. On the most recent show they try to figure out what is a good term to use for female masturbation. There are more male euphuisms or slang terms, but not that many for female. Why is that?
This is the sort of burning issue Hella & Ruth tackle at 8 in the morning. They are also very cheerful, intelligent, and charming. And it is not a dirty show.
It has an entirely different feel from the typical shock jock commercial Howard Sternish type of product. Where that type of show often feels dirty-little-boy repressed, misogynistic and leering, Hella & Ruth are fun, interesting, and free.

It's not all talking dirty. Sometimes there are phone calls, discussion of issues of the day, sometimes a guest will drop by.
So all this is kind of indiscribable, unique. Give Hella Fabulous a listen. They are quite entertaining.
Oh yeah, I looked at the Youtube video of Steve Around-the-Corner. They were talking about it on the show, he's a caller or something. It's pretty good. Here it is:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Excerpt from a Dog's Ear

This is an entertaining and emotionally fulfilling story of a man who finds himself in the past where he encounters himself at age nine.

It's not an altogether original concept. It brings to mind the old Twilight Zone, episode "Walking Distance" which also had it's origins in a Gore Vidal short story "A Moment of Green Laurel".
But none of that matters because the playwright here, Kavyasiddhi takes the whole thing a couple steps further which makes it a very satisfying piece.

This is a fairly stripped down production with it's beach setting and two principle actors. Both Michael Begley as Dan and Aidan Parsons as the boy Danny are effective in their roles.

Some of the scenes are particularly nice. There is a scene where Dan is remembering losing his ball into the waves while it is in fact happening. That scene is most excellent. Then there is Dan describing to Danny an issue with his girlfriend and the window they broke together which cleverly describes the thorny issue the adult is facing while avoiding sullying the child.

The time travel issues are nicely handled too. Danny asks Dan if he is a Time Lord. and is in awe of the mobile phone.

It's a beautiful heartfelt poetic little play that delivers beyond expectation.

It is available on BBC Radio 4 The Afternoon Play page through next Monday January 19, 2009. Click on the Tuesday button.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Here is one that I've been wanting to comment on.
It played on BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play some time ago, last year, it might have even been in November. It made quite an impression. I've listened to it about four times.

Development by Doug Lucie offers a scary comedy drama that accurately reflects our lugubrious times. This show is up to the minute. As Lucie says in this interesting interview at Theatre Voice, we have here a play about a "reckoning" that appears to be due, one that Lucie and some of the rest of us have been expecting.

We start out meeting a family in their large McMansion in a development "built" by the company of the man of the house Mike. This could have been recorded on location in such a house. The actors voices sound like they are resonating, reverberating in the large drywall board constructed hollow rooms where the story is set. The hollow sound reflects the empty spirits of the inhabitants. These people are vacuous, vampires, they suck up what is living to sustain themselves in a walking death, in their greedy march to nowhere. But are these cartoon monsters, exaggerated, too broadly drawn to be at all real? No. They are all too familiar figures that can be found in any Development, or any new suburb with it's too large "homes", anywhere in the "West" and in other parts of the world following this model for all I know. They are the inhabitants of the marketplace, they are consumers. They identify themselves through what they consume. They fill their emptiness through consumption. They and disconnected to one another.
Zoe, the mother, has been consuming fad spirituality but has finally returned to the faith of her fathers
There is a gap between the parents and the two children. The boy, Joe, is a slacker, a lay-about consuming marijuana and pornography. His father Mike apparently hasn't even been to his son's room. He has to be told about the hardcore pinups on the walls. They live in the same house and he hasn't been to his son's room. Mike tries to communicate with Joe, but is ridiculed because he doesn't know the latest slang for "cool". Mike is somewhat ashamed at not being with it. Joe doesn't want to use the same words of his father. He wants to be current and youthful, using the secret language of his consumer sub-group to express his individuality. He doesn't want to be associated with his parents generation, with the things they consume. He wants his own. The mass media culture encourages this divide and sell. If all members of a family go for the same products, there is less to be sold, They can share what they have. More products can be sold if they all are in their our niche markets. His father expresses some exasperation at Joe's laziness, and acknowledges that he is partly responsible for making him as he is. Why would Joe be motivated to make something of himself if he has had everything handed to him? How could he find the motivation to strive for the things that are already there? And his purchasing choices are anti-motivational. The marijuana encourages dreaming, the pornography, and eye-balling the help provides sexual fulfillment and release. What else is there to a young dude to strive for?

Mike is the classic self-made man. He is the one who schemed, worked hard, put the deals together, hired the workers, and fought the Green types in his way to build the developments that have made him rich. He has made it up from less into more. He believes in business, privatization, less government regulation and influence. He is the one of these rebels, the rugged individualists, who made hay riding on the dominate economic notions of the last part of the 20 Century. The man of our time.

In the opening moments of the play we hear Zoe berating Tatyana, the help, the housekeeper. Tatyana can't seen to get it through her thick foreign scull that she needs to make the coffee before she does the hoovering. And yes Zoe, we understand your pain. It is so difficult to find competent help these days. We soon find that Tatyana is more than the family saw her to be as her wealthy brother shows up.
We hear the family's attitude shift instantly as the brother Leo shows up in a flashy, expensive automobile. They smell money and the seduction begins. Mike needs it since his once thriving business in now bankrupt, he desperately needs an injection of cash to keep it all afloat. But the credit has all dried up. He befriends his maid's brother after he sees the flashy car and soon looks to him as the only savior of his lifestyle.

It's all too real and right out of the headlines. In the end there is an abrupt shift of the social order for the characters in this show. The first one now will later be last, in a global machine whose wheels and cogs keep turning. And we can see the winners at the end falling prey to the very same forces of decay that destroyed the original family. We are given a clue of that early on when the brother with the flashy car explains why his sister was working as a maid. Leo says that she is a lazy girl who needs to learn about work. Well, she does learn about work and learns that she doesn't care for it and will go the same way into pleasure, dominance, and consumption, the rewards of an empty marketplace culture.

It is fun to listen in on all this and sometimes laugh at and look down on these silly and shallow people. Yet there is much of them in many of us other consumers, and if not that, there is the fact that the actions of this sort of person in this sort of culture effects us all unless we have found a way to live off the grid.
How does one get off the grid?

This is a really great production, writing, acting, all. One of the best of last year. It would be good if they run it again on BBC Radio 4 soon. People should hear this one.
More Doug Lucie please. He knows how to tell the truth in an entertaining way.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

WNYC is brought to you by. . .

There is a woman, well, I assume it is a woman, it also could be talking software, a machine that speaks what is typed into it. This female gender sounding voice can be heard repeated throughout the day on WNYC, the big public radio station here in NYC. If she is an actual person she must come in one day and spend the whole day reading endorsements announcements, public radio commercials that come before what appears to be each and every program. they even play them during the breaks at 20 and 40 each hour. If this is an actual woman, it's a good gig there are a lot of these, and it probably pays well, a nice union gig. If she is software, she is already paid for, is a slave and works for nothing. Maybe an intern has the job of typing in, entering, what she needs to say.

The thing is she sounds like she always has a cold, like she is suffering from nasal congestion, is all stuffed up. I want to give her a tissue, or a good shot of 12 Hour Nasal Spray so I can relax and stop worrying if this poor woman will continue to get enough air to sustain life. This leads me to believe that she must be software and maybe that the person who played the voice of the software and recorded the actual vowel sounds that make up the synthetic words, had an awful cold on the day she did the recordings. It is also possible that she is in fact a real woman and that she hates what she has to do so much, reading commercials on Public Radio, that she thinks it stinks and is commenting on that by always holding her nose while speaking the lines and therefore producing the stuffed up sound. Her voice also sounds kind of wet, moist. I guess it is the sound that WNYC and it's sponsors love for she is ubiquitous. If you listen to WNYC you know her well.

What do you think? Help me out here. I need to know. Person or machine?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


The Wireless Theatre Company presents a very good comedy production by the team of Davis & McQuillan. I really like it. These guys are also fine musicians and the premise is all about the creation of their band. One of them hears the other playing at a local mall and being ignored by the sound of the crowd. He asks if the player wants to join a band. Which band? our band is the answer, so he says yes. I’m using “he” and “he” because I don’t know which is which of the characters Flagrin & Else who they play. Anyway, there is a breezy plot of sorts, but that is not why this show is pretty great. That reason is the clever dialog patter, including toying with musician’s terms, and the ridiculous songs that the two play. These songs are not only lyrically clever, but very well played compositions in parody of various pop genres. These guys can play and fortunately they are both on keys, no guitars.
If this were a hundred years ago DAVIS & MCQUILLAN would be making a good living in vaudeville touring, and touring (provided that they liked to ride in trains, could stand the train strain). They could have honed a great 15 minutes over the years and played it from town to town, for 20 years or so.
But now they are on the World Wide Web. And while they can potentially be heard by more people than a lifetime of touring in the old days, and they probably can’t leave their day jobs. (Busking at the mall?)
BBC Radio 4, are you listening? You should check these guys out.

As we leave the boys, one of them has been captured by pirates. I’m tired of sitting on the edge of my seat on the cliff, walking the plank. I’m ready for episode 2.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Boats on a River

This is a well crafted play by Julie Marie Myatt which I had the pleasure of hearing on The Play's the Thing. It is an LA Theater Works audio adaptation of the theatrical production originally commissioned by The Guthrie Theater.

The subject matter is the Cambodian child sex industry. It takes on the subject through the personal stories of people who work in a rescue shelter where they attempt to rehabilitate the girls caught up in this. We look at their motivations for the work they are involved in. The most curious is an American, Sidney Webb, who we find out is in fact married to a former "bar girl". They have two children, but despite that it is not working out for Mr. Webb. He cannot heal the wounds that she continues to carry. He is a man on a mission to save, and is frustrated by failing with the one closest to him. But why must he be the hero? Is it because of the guilt he carries? There is a scene between Webb and his wife which is the strongest in the play.

There is also a zealous young American who is working for an international rescue agency. His batched raid on a brothel opens the play. He needs to be a hero too. He also fails. The scenes between Webb and this young man are also quite effective.

We hear a recorded diary of an American sex tourist apparently on his first trip. Somehow this part was the weakest in the audio production. That could be because the multimedia video portion of the stage production cannot be used in the audio adaptation. He is a rather vague entity. But then again, this is not a play about the perpetrators. There is plenty of that sort of thing elsewhere and the lack of it in this production is one of its strengths. This is not an exploitation piece.

We hear the story and dreams of the three girls rescued in the raid. Their desires and dreams are small, to have some candy, own a bike, and huge, to have a new life as a boy.

The play uses the most effective way of telling such a story. It focuses on a few people and studies them rather than a just-the- facts sort of agitprop journalism. It is a thought provoking entertainment concerning an issue of global importance. As Julie Marie Myatt says in the interview portion of the "The Play's the Thing" presentation, the issue is not just in Cambodia, but everywhere.

I don't know where this can be heard. I couldn't find it on the LA Theater Works site. Maybe it will show up there later. I heard it via real audio at The Play's the Thing, but the week long freebee stream is now timed out.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Our Lenny

WNYC has been presenting Our Lenny "A 13-day Exploration and Celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s Enduring New York Legacy". It is all finishing up tonight but can be heard online.

Part of the presentation is the wonderful 11 part documentary,
Leonard Bernstein: An American Life. If you care at all about the musical and general cultural scene in the USA in the last part of the 20th Century, or if you are simply interested in listening to a great audio documentary, this one is not to be missed. Fortunately it is available in audio stream form here. I don't know how long they intend to keep it there, so give it a listen while you can.

There are other programs within Our Lenny that focus on particular works with guests commenting. I particularly enjoyed the West Side Story hour with Sport Murphy and host David Garland, because it is, well, it's West Side Story and that music has always made a major impression on me.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

I read somewhere that a production company was preparing a new audio dramatization of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
It occurred to me that I had never read the original. I have seen a couple film adaptations years ago; Disney, one from 1933. I did a google search intending to look for the text. I ran across this production directed by Karen M. Chan. This is the unabridged novel with a full cast acting out the dialogue. They do a serviceable job presenting the material. I particularly enjoyed the Ed Wynn impersonation by J.I. Magnussun as Mock Turtle.
So if you are interested in Alice's Adventures you might want to check it out.

That said, I must admit that I while I find the Carroll's work fantastical, and somewhat grotesque, there is not much drama in it. There is no real danger or threat to be avoided through most of the piece. We simply go from one episode to the next meeting one odd character after another until the ending with the "off with her head" stuff. But even then the threat doesn't seem real, immediate, or particularly critical. There is no real connection between the characters. It's all rather clever and cold.

That said I feel that L. Frank Baum steals from Carroll and does him one better when it comes to drama and characters with emotional connection and depth. While we have the same, it's all a dream ending, the melodrama of the Baum book drives it forward and does a better job engaging the reader/listener. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is the stronger work. Wired for Books, Karen M. Chan and all also do this book which I did not listen to having read the book not so long ago. But this might be a good way to compare one to the other.
Wired for Books also has many audio files of noted writers interviewed.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Caesar Price our Lord

Well, I'm back to listening to BBC Radio 4. I listened to The Material World today on the iPlayer. The iPlayer worked flawlessly. I still prefer to use a stand alone player app if I can. When I use the iPlayer via Safari and continue to scroll other web pages it pauses. This is irritating. But the bottom line is that I really enjoy the BBC radio drama content, and view it as an enormous gift even if the wrapping paper is sticky and annoying at times.

And I'm happy to be listening to the plays again, I missed them.
The Afternoon Play production of Caesar Price our Lord by Fin Kennedy is quite an interesting show. "Roll up!" one and all.

Somehow I feel that BBC radio has covered this sort of topic before and I was expecting something lighter and silly. What I got was a beautifully crafted entertainment that drew me in at the very first with the sound design, Jon Nicholls's music with lot of synth strings, and a little nervous Bernard Herrmann-mish repeating line.
Then Lee Ingleby speaks as Caesar. This first speech set within the music and thunder claps, is delivered with such intimate, soft spoken conviction that I was instantly hypnotized, disbelief suspended, and ready for the ride.
From that first speech Lee Ingleby's performance is so sympathetic, so convincing, the quality of his voice so beautiful, I was really pulling for his character. I loved the guy and wanted him to be the second coming.
Of course, I didn't at all expect him to be. How could it have ended up that way? These things just don't. Yet there was the possibility. I mean, I don't really know how the universe works. There is always the remote possibility the my lord and savior could end up revealing himself to me through a radio drama, one that only I can hear.
This production is a little miracle in that they pulled it off at all and yet did so in a way that I was disappointed when I noticed the time was running out and it would have to end and I would no longer be surrounded (I listened with earphones) by these voices, these sounds. It might have been better with the hour long Saturday Play slot, or the Friday Play if that ever comes back.

Fin Kennedy produced a script that set me to thinking about matters such as the level of trauma in the lives of people in the public eye, and how dangerous that is in a mass media world. How many screwed up damaged individuals are we looking up to, the ones running things, the ones who need the power and wealth to make them feel secure, shelter them from the pain that they can not bare to allow in? How many times have we people followed leaders into death, a death that represents the only hope of salvation for the twisted leader who can't bare to look himself in the mirror and drags us all into his lethal scenarios of destructive distraction?

Yes I know, this is not what is on the surface of the drama. But I am here to present my subjective opinion and tell you were my mind goes during and after the show.
As I said before, this is a beautiful production all the way around. It is lucid, direct. We hear a sound cue, a "whoosh", a change in ambiance that tells us we are in the past, a flashback, or into someone's thoughts, memories.
A fun ride! Thanks to Fin Kennedy, Lee Ingleby, Jon Nicholls, Nadia Molinari and all.
The Afternoon Play
BBC Radio 4
The play can be heard here, through Thursday Oct. 2, 2008, via iPlayer, or whatever one can manage.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Silent Night

Silent Night, by David Nobbs, is in fact not a piece if satiric commentary on the wonders of the dropouts, or "Not Available" we have been experiencing via the BBC iPlayer.
But I have listened to my first Afternoon Play in some time. Not only have I been busy with other things such as the fascination with the USA falling apart before my eyes, but I was actually avoiding the iPlayer until they figured out how to make it work. I don't know if they ever did. I'm scared to try it again.
I listened to this one with a stand alone realplayer thanks to Ross_1170's help on the Radio 4 Message Board Drama & Readings section.

Silent Night is a kind of dark comedy about a man and his growing obsession with the ambient noise in his environment. It begins more or less how one would expect from the subject matter but takes off from there with commentaries on the sprawl of urbanity across the countryside ,the commercial exploitation of what one feels passionate about, the alienation of loved ones, and ultimately left me to consider if the things that bug me are the things that perhaps should also be held dear since they are the elements of life itself.

This it a dense 45 minute show, crammed with ideas. This is a real work of art from a writer who clearly cares deeply about the main issue and where the contemplation of it through the creation of the work leads him. The ending reminded me of a short story by Theodore Dreiser (an old favorite writer) called Free. They both take us to the same place in the end.
Silent Night is a much deeper piece than it would appear, which is what makes it a wonderful play. It also made me laugh out loud a couple of times at the gym where I heard it on my DAP.

BTW: I live in Manhattan and sleep with ear plugs, a eye mask, and one of these digital white noise machines making sort of digital wave sounds at bedside, and the air conditioner whirring in the window. Anything to avoid auto horns. I sleep in an audio prophylactic. So this show was for me.

It appears I'm a fan of David Nobbs since I quite enjoyed Three Large Beers sometime ago, whenever that was on. My comments on that one are here somewhere.

Silent Night By David Nobbs
The Afternoon Play
BBC Radio 4

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Richard Martin's Wake-Up Call

Turns out that I'm not at all caught off guard by the little problems with the economy. I've been listening to The Gary Null Show for some years and Richard Martin's Wake-Up Call over the past year or so.
They told me long ago what was going to happen and appears to be happening now.
They seem to be right a lot of the time.

Monday, September 15, 2008

God's Man in Texas

This is an LA Theater Works production. They play their shows on KPCC which is in Southern California. I get it on the WWW.

God's Man in Texas by David Rambo is an entertaining drama having to do with the big business of the religious/entertainment industry.

All the action takes place in a Texas mega church. The revered pastor of the church is aging and on the way out. The committee set up to replace him is having new preachers come in and give sample sermons. The figures, the approval rating, the amount of contributions, and the number of souls saved are all looked at in judging the new candidate and comparing him to others.
But there are other not so transparent political games going on in the church which might, more that these other things, determine the ultimate decision.

This is a full length play and it is amusing and somewhat frightening throughout. This form of TV age religion. so powerful in the USA is examined in an artful, intelligent way that never seems preachy or didactic.

This, like other LA Theater Works productions, is performed before a live audience. I tend to prefer studio productions without an audience, but LA Theater Works radio plays are generally topnotch with fine actors from stage screen and audio drama. They are most often adaptations of stage plays as is this fine play by David Rambo.

It is available via real audio stream on The Play's The Thing site until Sept. 20, 2008. And it can be purchased on CD from LA Theater Works anytime.

The Takeaway

WNYC Radio and Public Radio International has recently offered a new hour long news and information morning show called The Takeaway. It's not a bad product and I used to give it a listen from time to time. But now I can't bring myself to turn it on. It's not the content, but the production and specifically the bumper music that they keep repeating through the hour.

I hate the way it sticks in my head, how I hear it's little galloping rhythm after I turn off the radio and head out the door off toward my work day. It's not that it's a bad little tune, they just play it too many times though the hour.

Please take away the bumper music on The Takeaway then the show might be somewhat worth a listen. As is is all I take away from The Takeaway is an annoying tune I can't shake.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Classified Secret

Classified Secret is an episode from the long running CBS radio anthology series Escape.
This is a very fine little play written and directed by Anthony Ellis. It features a beautifully underplayed performance by Parley Baer as a spy on a bus ride. The whole play is kind of quite with some cold-blooded murderous calculation and action. Max Schmid played it at the top of his Golden Age of Radio Program on August 31, 2008.
You can hear it until Saturday Sept 13, 2008 on the WBAI Podcast page. Just scroll down to Golden Age of Radio August 31, 2008.
It is also available at Internet Archive.
If you are at all a fan of Gunsmoke you might enjoy hearing Bear who plays Chester in a completely different role. Classified Secret is a Cold War spy story and the best in radio melodrama of the period. A very good production all around.

It make a decent substitute while BBC Radio 4 listeners await the sorting out of the iPlayer mess, should that ever occur.

Monday, August 4, 2008

This is the Modern World

I didn't hear the first two of Frank Cottrell Boyce's five Friday Plays having to do with punk and an audience reunion of, like, 27 people from a punk show in 1977.

But I did hear three and four.
Part 3: Damned, Damned, Damned is a prison drama with some interesting characters and plot turns. Here we have an audience member, or rather sort of bouncer, who is now in prison and in spite of his on-going anger problem, or because of it, has given his life to Christ in his very own muddled fashion. He has been invited to the audience reunion and wants to go except that he happens to be in prison. There is some interaction with the younger set in the can when our old punk guy talks about the bands of the past and tells them about the option of glue sniffing which I thought it rather odd. I would imagine all people in prison would know exactly what kind of stuff, that might be around the prison, one can get high from. Then he undergoes a change of approach to the younger set in the can, but it is an uneasy transition with some fits and starts.
Anyway, it was a pretty good play as far as I can remember from a week or so ago when I listened (Ah yes! the subjective nature of listening. Where was my mind that day?).

I have come here today to write about the most recent One Chord Wonders play,
This is the Modern World.
This must be the one that Frank Cottrell Boyce describes as: ". . . a road comedy that lurches into something surprisingly sad for the last ten minutes." It is a rather wild ride, or rather, walk. It's also a father/daughter buddy story and a fish out of water story.
The result is quite delightful with several surprises and some wonderful dialog and one liners along the way. On returning to civilization Muttley states that it was boring before, now it's boring and corporate. I could say that about my home town..

The play has this rather loopy looking-back from the future aspect. I'm not exactly sure why Cottrell Boyce made this choice other than he thought it would be fun to throw in, which I tend to agree. One can hear the joy of the free creative process in this play since it is so much fun and loopy while still dealing with some issues of the day, yesterday and today.
The ending turns into sort of a mother/daughter story. And what is the deal with people who want to benefit the world, and yet treat someone close with torturous rejection?

Frank Cottrell Boyce offers a mission statement that describes his pleasure of working in the freedom of the audio drama form. Well, I would imagine that it doesn't hurt that he had a fellow named Toby Swift in his corner with this project.

Anyway, I'm happy that the Friday Play is back and happy with the One Chord Wonders plays that I've heard and I wouldn't mind hearing the first two if anyone has any suggestions. . .

Do all the plays have a running Police gag? The two I heard both has a point where the protagonist has a little speech about punk music and, if you excuse the expression, Sting. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Leonard and Marianne

BBC Radio 4 visits with Marianne Ihlen. This is the woman from the Leonard Cohen song So Long, Marianne, they have a history that now dates back almost 50 years, and both visit that a bit in this brief radio documentary.
This is not them sitting in the radio studio together, the interviews are recorded on separate occasions.

Now, I should say that I consider Cohen to be a very special artist, and as Marianne says in the program, he is really more than that. And she should know since she knows him well. I mean, it is one thing what the public thinks on one based on the work or publicity, what ones friends and associates think is generally another thing altogether. Cohen is really more than a writer or singer, he is almost a spiritual figure, because some of the work is very strong indeed.

I particularly favor the CD from a few years ago called Ten New Songs. This is perhaps the most listenable of Cohen's song collections. It is a very smooth piece thanks to the wonderful musical settings provided by Sharon Robinson. I kind of wish he would do more work with her. She is on the new one Dear Heather, but with only one song.

Cohen is very interesting in interviews, he should really talk more. In this one we hear him talk about what it was like to be a young writer and how it was a bit of an eye opener that he couldn't make a living as a writer, even a published one. He also speaks very kindly of Marianne, as she does him. Also he seems to have reached a sort of serenity in old age. That's nice.
So check it out if you are al all interested in LC. You can listen again until about Saturday Aug 10, 2008.

Here is some video of Cohen and a longer interview with Marianne conducted in Norwegian. A English translation of Marianne's interview is available here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Grandma Phyllis with Clay Pigeon

I generally avoid Seven Second Delay on WFMU. Andy does some good work. I quite enjoyed Rat Race (but have never seen Monk), perhaps he should stick to writing. He is not so good on the radio. He has a losing combination of traits being, abrasive and silly at the same time. He also somehow reminds me of Scooby Do, something about his voice.

At any rate I happened to look at the WFMU site at that hour the other day and saw that Clay Pigeon was filling in with someone called Grandma Phyllis and, being a fan of Clay's work, tuned in half way through the program.

They presented a unique and wonderful listening experience simply by talking, being human and authentic. For the first half hour Clay basically interviews Phyllis. As usual he is very good at drawing people out with empathy, projection, and leading questions. This works really well with Phyllis who seems quite comfortable about opening up about herself. Maybe she figures, at 78, "Why not!"

Later they take some calls. The calls are also unique. Particularly the granddaughter who lives with her grandparents and the 63 year old NYC woman.
There is some discussion about what it means for older people to move out of NYC and the dead zone of places that retirees are often expected to go live. Florida is particularly slammed as an unlivable place for someone who does not drive. I loved this discussion because Phyllis really defends being an older NYCer, as does the caller who is 63.
And it is true. NYC is a pretty wonderful place to live, and in the right neighborhood, everything is easily accessible for young or old. One does not have to get in an automobile all the time and I love that.

This is a terrific program. I found myself thinking that Phyllis should have her own show, but really it is special because it is rare, and if it was on every week it would probably become more guarded, or Phyllis would be annoyed by the commitment or something. But what we have is really interesting and fun.

Here it is:
WFMU's The Dusty Show with Clay Pigeon from 7/30/2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Speaking of Faith

Speaking of Faith is a program distributed by American Public Media. It plays on Saturday mornings at seven on WNYC-FM and is repeated in the afternoon at three on their AM station. The program deals with issues of faith, religion, spiritual matters, and how these interface with human sociology. This is a very good program that is on occasion, dependant on the subject, vital.

Play, Spirit, + Character is this week's repeat offering on Speaking of Faith. This played last year. It is an interview with Stuart Brown, a physician and director of the National Institute for Play. I would like to put this interview in the "vital", "must hear" file.
I would also recommend going to the site and listening to the extended unedited version of the interview.

Brown and charming host Krista Tippett discuss the function of play in human development and what can happen if play is absent or restricted.
There seems to be two directions play is currently going. There is the cram-them-full-of-info crowd that want to give children a leg up against the competition of all the other children and demands that there is really no time for something as silly as play. This is the notion that gives us things like No Child Left Behind. (Work, work, work, no recess, take your meds and get to work.) But then there are others in a growing movement that says the WORK of a child is PLAY. It is essential to the growth of a healthy human.
This is an excellent program. Please don't miss it.

When I was a child I could take off in the moring on my bike and my parents didn't really know where I was and what I was up to. It was wonderful; summertime, freedom!
Then school would begin in the fall.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

BBC iPlayer

BBC radio internet users may have noticed a change.
We now have the BBC iPlayer which at a glance seems to afford several more listening and viewing options since they have added video. One must be in the UK in order to see the video. The radio continues to stream and offer Listen Again for a week after broadcast as before.

OK, this is fine and I suppose quite helpful to some people particularly TV viewers in the UK.
But I have a complaint.
I don't like that it is now more difficult to just get a stream to play without a browser plug-in. The reason that I don't like it being linked to the browser constantly is that when I scroll in the browser while listening to the stream the stream pauses sometimes during the scroll.
This is a particular problem when I'm trying to record the program with Audio Hijack.
I use a Mac and Safari. Also if I continue to browse I could run into other sound coming from another site I visit which could get on my recording. There used to be a button on the RealPlayer plug-in that could be clicked and instantly open the program in the stand alone RealPlayer application. This button has vanished and I did some looking around to try to find the "Stand alone player" option.
I failed.
The work around for me: When the iPlayer plug-in opens it does not show the url.
So I go View>show toolbar.
This the top of the window and reveals the url.
Copy url.
Open RealPlayer.
file>open location>paste

The program then plays in the RealPlayer stand alone.
BBC, please bring the "Stand Alone Player" button back.
Thank you very much.


The next day. . .
Well, I spoke too soon. My little work around isn't working at all.
Anybody have any ideas? I looked a bit at the BBC Radio 4 Message Board to see if anyone else was complaining. I could find nothing there.
I have yet to attempt to reconfigure RealPlayer, maybe the solution is there.

Yeah, change=life. But sometimes I just want it to stay the same.

At least BBC Radio 4 put The Friday Play back on except that while it was off I stopped looking to see if it was there so missed some of the One Chord plays which I would have liked to have heard. I probably should read those weekly newsletter emails so I know what is going on.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Leviathan Chronicles

Christof Laputka is in the process of creating an interesting product in The Leviathan Chronicles. Ok, anyone who spends much thing scanning through this blog will see that I have basically ignored independent productions in favor of BBC stuff. There is a lot more to the audio drama world other than BBC and OTR. There are several independent production companies. These seem to go from a guy somewhere with a mic and an internet connection all the way to production companies that seem to have a budget and a company of people to work with. The Leviathan Chronicles, along with Wireless, is in the latter group with an impressive flash web site and professional sounding tech and performances (for the most part, a scene in Chapter 5 could use a little more work).

Well, I have been called out and told to look into The Leviathan Chronicles and I did. This is a long form continuous science fiction story that is said to expand to 50 chapters of 30 minutes or so each. So far we are up to Chapter 9. I have heard the first 5.

Now the thing is. I'm not particularly drawn to serials, as a matter of fact I tend to avoid them. I favor the anthology series, shows that present something new every time. I somehow find it tedious to have to revisit my old friends, the principals on the series. So I say, give me Suspense, The Afternoon Play, The Twilight Zone, that sort of thing.

But The Leviathan Chronicles is quite good. The scenes are paced nicely, the plot interesting, some characters are revealing themselves to be worth following. I'm not a big fan of science fiction in general and I have heard some things that are kind of rushed, cluttered, noisy and not very lucid. I tend toward the more earth based science fiction, don't care much about space. So here we have a little of both with earth based action and undersea playing outerspace.

Being a New Yorker, I particularly enjoy the scene that take place here. Christof Laputka is a New Yorker and he celebrates it in his script setting geographically detailed scenes in his own neighborhood.

The tech of this production is good. There was some very interesting things going on with the musical score in chapter 5 which was nice because the scene it played under could have used a bit of work. Most of the time the acting is fine. It was a good decision to assign the narration to Samantha Turvill. She is terrific and really adds to the production.

The Leviathan Chronicles is not only for the sci-fi crowd, as a matter of fact I wonder how well it would go over in some fan communities. This is crossover material perhaps of interest to the general audio drama listener (is there such a thing?). This is secret society material that plays well in our current confusing WTF world. Although it has been years since I read him, Leviathan brings to mind some of the work of Robert Anton Wilson. Is Leviathan actually the Illuminati? Is this strange character Christof Laputka actually an Illuminati agent whose mission is to spread disinformation?
I guess we should all stay tuned and see what will happen next. It's an entertaining worthwhile ride (dive?).

Here is an interview with Christof Laputka conducted by Steve Riekeberg at Geek Cred.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Small Back Room

BBC Radio 4 presents a very interesting wartime drama as this week's Saturday Play. By "wartime" I mean World War Two, oh so long ago, but somehow ever present in that it kind of set the USA in a particular direction that is still a bit of a major problem.

Anyway, this play is not about any of that, yet it is very relevant to our wonderful 21st Century world. It has to do with the science guys who are supposed to be developing exciting new weaponry. There is an amusing scene early on where they take some time out to read "the comics" which is what they call the unsolicited mail-in suggestions from citizens.

The main plot concerns Sammy who is looking into some anti-personnel bombs that go off when found by whomever, like children, non-combatants. There are two fine scene with victims of these bombs. one dead, one soon to be. These bombs made me think of Cluster Bombs. Something that is still being perpetrated on the people of the world.

This is a good play, a gripping hour with an interesting suspense element. I didn't know which way the exciting ending was going to go. Beautifully written, produced and acted.

I never saw the movie version of this Nigel Balchin story.

The Small Back Room is available to "Listen Again" through Friday May 2, 2008. It is a worthy entertainment.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How Now TV

The Friday Play on BBC Radio 4 has been given to Paul Watson for the past two weeks. One wonders what Mr. Watson will have for us next week. Maybe he only has two and we can get back to radio drama.

I was not happy with the Unhappy Countess, not that I listened to the whole thing.
I did listen to all of How Now TV.
Mr. Watson has a long history of TV documentaries. I have not seen any of them that I know of. I suppose they are great, let's assume that. Yet his work n the audio plays is not at all good. Maybe the idea was that he was famous for work in TV and since TV is the god of all media surely he could tackle the easy comparatively infantile duties of writing and directing his own radio plays. After all, in radio you don't have the added worry of picture so it must be easier.
Or maybe the TV has finished with him and given all the work to the younger set so the poor old chap needed a gig and since radio pays so poorly, let him write two plays and double dip by directing them too (still not equal to TV money. I'm sure).

Anyway, How Now TV, was not at all engaging or even slightly interesting. I wish Radio 4 would have produced some scripts by people who know radio and know how to write for radio and let the TV rejects get by some other way

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I've been a bit distracted lately, so it has been hard for me to get to writing about some plays that I have enjoyed in the past few months.
But the Afternoon Play on BBC Radio 4 has come up with one that I don't want to let pass by without a mention.
Grace by Mick Gordon and AC Grayling is a very good play. I loved it. This it the type of drama that I really enjoy. It is a well written, thought provoking, play not far from the back story of current cultural trends. It is beautifully produced, well acted. In short, I think this is about as good as one can do in the 43 minute allotment of the time slot.

Here is the Radio 4 description of the play:

"Issues of faith, love, and humanity are at the core of this intimate family drama in which Grace, a scientist and champion of atheism, is faced with the decision of her son Tom to become a priest. A collaboration between philosopher A.C.Grayling and theatre writer and director Mick Gordon, the characters offer solutions to their deeply opposed ways of looking at the world even as they rage."

I would suggest that you might not want to miss this one. I mean, can good religion be used to defeat bad religion? That is a very good question and one that I have been thinking abut recently, and in the way, why I have been distracted recently.
Don't expect the play to answer this question. Don't even expect the play to explain a major plot point. It doesn't matter anyway and is not the ultimate point of the entertainment.
Grace is available here through Sunday April 27, 2008. Give it a listen.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hunting and Gathering Our Fast Food

So there was Deirdre Barrett on the radio this morning telling me that the hunter gatherers only had to work, like, three hours a day.
What the hell is wrong with us? How come we have to work so much even while we have all these labour saving machines?
And these hunter-gatherers, what do they do the rest of the time? PLAY!
Then she said something about the bonobos.
Yeah, PLAY.
Right. We've heard how the bonobos play.

Despite all that,
I want to be a hunter gather when I grow up.

Here is a pretty interesting interview from today's Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tomorrow, Today!

The thing is, I have a good deal of trouble keeping up with the stuff on BBC Radio 4. Especially when there are so many other things that I listen too, and life also has other demands. . .

Here is a bit of fun. Tomorrow, Today! is a very fast paced comedy half-hour. It has to do with the production of a BBC radio science fiction drama series being produced in 1962. I must like comedies about acting companies, the recent Murder Unprompted was quite enjoyable. And in this one we again have vain foolish actors, etc.

As I said Tomorrow, Today! moves fast and covers a lot of plot during all the gags. Two men are killed, people are threatened with loss of work, Commies at the BBC!?!?, ancient theatrical curses, we find out what happen to all the honey bees recently (Atomic Man-Bees!), and the heartbreak on not having your own doll if your part is, "All other voices".
And that's just the first week. I guess we will have to wait until Today, Next Week to see what the future holds.
Check it out: Tomorrow, Today!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

We Need to Talk about Kevin

This is a BBC Radio 4 play of the novel by Lionel Shriver, adapted by Anita Sullivan.

Maybe baby? Maybe not?

Perhaps this horror story, this worst case, will tip the scale one way or another.

But really, this between Eva and Kevin is really horrible. To be an unloved child. . .An unloved mother. . .

The Woman's Hour Drama slot is 15 minutes in length. This play ran to 10 parts. I have not been a big listener to the 15 minute multi-part plays, but with this one the format worked quite nicely. Maybe that is because the play is mostly a woman reading her letters to her husband. So a couple of letters per episode seemed to work well. The letters will then sometimes come to life as small scenes from them are dramatized, acted out.

The material is very dark and somewhat unusual. We are not so accustomed to hearing a mother speak so negatively about the experience. I was pleased to find the Lionel Shriver is in fact a woman. I didn't want this negative mother's voice to come from a man.
It appears the some of the motivation for this, the original book, is that Shriver, childless, was personally exploring the idea of having a child before it was no longer possible to have one. This result, in radio play form, is a mother and son melodrama that is quite harsh. It is a horror story of the worst that can happen.
I believe that for the most part it is genetically part of us to love out children. This helps us to survive, to keep reproducing. But does the experience make us happy?
I read a book last year called Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. In one section he discusses the parent/child issue and presents a graph on the results of two studies on the happiness of parents. It turns out that having children does not at all make us happy. generally the issues involved in parenting are difficult enough that the studies show that the happiness of the couple recedes when the children come and only returns to the same level when they leave the nest. Of course this is not a conscious experience of most parents because we must love our children and do, so we ignore the negatives.

As a listening experience the show is topnotch. Madeleine Potter rather underplays her Eva. That restraint makes her believable, more real. It is a wonderful performance, with difficult material. Nathan Nolan's Kevin always has the right tone of youthful wise ass pain.
So this is strong stuff which will not be for everyone, but I really enjoyed it as a very scary story, well told.
The last 5 parts are available on The Woman's Hour Drama page but will change into something else beginning Monday Jan. 21, 2008.
Here in an interesting interview with Lionel Shriver. She talks about her book.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Snow in July

Snow in July takes us into the same sort of area as Advice for the Living. We have a character who is going to die sooner than the rest of us (hopefully).
Except here the story is presented in dramatic form and the main focus is on the likely to live longer spouse. It is a bitter sweet story of one who is struggling to find a way to accept it all and go on with living.
There is a certain hope in this aspect of the story, an embrace of change, and change is something it is best to come to terms with. Change being a constant.
There is another story here as well. A story of industrial pollution, it's tragic results years in the future, long after the polluters have gone out of business.
In Snow in July we have a beautiful combination of the personal story that pulls us in, and the bigger story of industry, law, and justice.
This excellent play by Alice Nutter can be heard here through Monday Jan. 14, 2008. Just click on the Tuesday button.