Review: National Theatre Podcast Channel1:20, 20th October 2017
Easy listening with some excellent points of topic, perfect for those looking to engage with theatre critically.
The National Theatre’s (NT) 10-part fortnightly podcast series has been running since May, with the intention of looking to discuss and explore sociocultural issues, using theatre as a springboard. As NT producer and podcast host Sam Sedgman outlines in the first episode, ‘Brexit’, the podcast series sets out to discuss ‘sex, death, politics and everything in between’.
Each episode explores a different point of interest, the Brexit episode featuring former MP Ed Miliband as a special guest, and others including a discussion into the phenomenon of masculinity, with Moonlight writer Tarell Alvin McCraney; and ‘In Public’, which looks at the role of public art and how people interact with their surroundings.
The podcasts are all around 40 minutes long, making them fairly bitesize – easily consumable on a morning commute or during a lunchbreak. If there’s a particular topic you or your class is interested in, listening collectively would take up less than the average single period. I do think however that these podcasts are less about listening as a class, and more about what the topics mean to the individual. Some of the anecdotes shared are very intimate and personal, and I think they would make for an excellent resource for A level students or those looking to expand their critical thinking.
There are some real gems in here: in ‘Old Lear’, Simon Russell Beale and Don Warrington share their experiences of playing one of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, while Sedgman also asks ‘what happens when the power is in the audience’s hand?’ Meanwhile, ‘Performing Gender’ is an absolute goldmine for insight into gender as a performance – an undoubtedly useful resource for a student of any level above Key Stage 3.
As is typical with podcasts – particularly those on iTunes – there aren’t chapters, so you wouldn’t necessarily be able to skip back and forth to points of especial interest unless you know the times at which those particular things were said. This is no problem really however; the short length of the podcasts makes them very accessible.
It’s shame this series is only running for 10 episodes; it’s something I feel could hold real merit as an ongoing project. I do appreciate the amount of time that has gone into such a thing however, and how much planning it must take to book guest slots around topical themes. But it’s certainly something I would – as indeed should you – be interested in.
The National Theatre Podcast series is free to download on the NT website at www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/podcast, or on iTunes.
Rebecca Pizzey is the editorial assistant of Teaching Drama. She is an English Literature BA and Creative Writing MA graduate from Brunel University London.