Tea in the Sahara
Kev – Fiction Podcast Critic
As we creep from a relatively dull February into March and with spring finally in the post (albeit on a 2nd class stamp), I have yet another extraordinary podcast for you guys to load up into your podcast player of choice and submerge yourself into!
Master of his own destiny Kris Kaiyala, writer, producer, director, voice actor, and all-around superstar behind the wonderfully immerse ‘Dirt audio drama’ from STUDIO5705 is the next solid entry into the Tea in the Sahara reviewing cannon. And I for one am as happy as Larry to have been introduced to this ultra-modern & fresh podcast. Cheers, Kris.
Spoiler ALERT, apologies if you have not already binged and listened to the whole series just yet, as I will be offering up my own thoughts and opinions on the show within this review. For those people at the back not paying attention, you have been warned!
The plot follows our main character and shows narrator Joseph (Kris Kaiyala), a successful Seattle playboy CEO, and owner of a futuristic app development agency over the course of six chapters. Joseph receives a letter in the post from his grandfather, which in normal circumstances wouldn’t make for much of a gripping storyline however, Joseph’s grandfather Aimo passed away over thirty years ago!
Joseph is not your average CEO and Dirt is not your average storyline as we discover that Wiley old Aimo might just be leaving his grandson ‘Joey’, what the kids call today a trail of Easter eggs to follow. The quest for answers sends Joseph on a personal adventure back into his family’s past, trying to uncover what it is that Aimo is trying to tell him from the grave. Aided by his sister Kim (Genie Leslie), Joseph gets caught up in some interesting, if not challenging situations. Including almost getting killed on a side crossing, which I think we Brits call a zebra crossing whilst wearing a fake moustache & eyebrows, thus making him an unknowingly social media sensation overnight. You see guys it takes skills to write this type of script.
Through some clever detective work, Joseph returns to a childhood farm, now run by family friends which he spent time on as a kid that his grandfather helped to set up back in the day. It appears that Joseph is not the only person to receive instructions from the late Aimo, as we discover that current farm owner Salvador Flores (Jhonattan Fuentes) knew that Joseph would return to the farm.
If you are scratching your noggin right now, fear not the picture becomes clearer as the Flores family including love interest Antonia Flores (Megan Morales) use an old beat-up metal detector left by Aimo to discover, and dig up a jewellery box that holds a key, and a letter containing the next clue in this cryptic puzzle. Aimo also likes to write his letters in a poetic, almost riddling fashion that certainty turns the old brain matter over like a cement mixer which is great.
The show dances back and forth in a kaleidoscope fashion with an ongoing hazy dream that Joseph has about the sea, boats, and of course Aimo. It’s at this point I would like to highlight the stunning production & sound effects used within this show which to my untrained ears is pretty damn spectacular. The soundscape atmosphere which is crafted throughout the series is flawless. The sound of crickets at night time accompanied by that airhorn sound you associate with huge American trains, to boats bobbing about in a harbour, is all expertly blended & embedded within Joseph’s world.
I even strangely enjoyed the binky-bonky ‘start your day’ music used within the scene where Joseph is getting ready for his day. As Kris mentions, enjoy this audio drama wherever, but for a truly immersed experience, it is best listened through quality headphones. I also salute another podcaster keen to invite the audience further into the show by releasing an artistic soundtrack of songs featured within season one, which for fans of the music used within the podcast will be a welcomed innovative move.
As for the writing within the podcast, it definitely draws the listener in with its multiple layers of description, which for someone like me who is a nuance freak is music to my ears. I hope Kris doesn’t mind me saying this, but those intricate levels of narrative description and visual scene framing really reminded me of another podcast ‘The Leviathan Chronicles’ by Christof Laputka.
In terms of characters (and myself being British dry and sarcastic), I was immediately drawn to Kris’s assistant Mel (Jessi Brown) who plays dry, and slightly sarcastic perfectly. Sarcastic mannerisms are not easy to pull off with conviction without becoming fairly arrogant which jars. Kudos Jessi, on an amazingly balanced performance that often made me smile. Joseph’s character voiced by Kris Kaiyala is also an interesting enigma that I liken to a modern version of Steve McQueen in the film The Thomas Crown Affair. A successful businessman, marginally aloof, with smarts, however minus all the crazy bank heists McQueen’s character relishes. Plus I couldn’t quite see the proclaimed king of cool wearing a fake moustache & eyebrows combo either!
I especially enjoyed the heartwarming scene when Joseph meets up with the Flores family who had not seen them for many years. The warmth and harmony written within that scene portray kindness that only lifelong friendships can bring. In a crazy modern Covid world it seems like a distant memory catching up with friends & family who we haven’t seen for far too long. So within this unique podcast format, it is refreshing to be reminded of how good that togetherness feeling actually is (I hope that makes sense?)
So the million-dollar question is, who is this podcast for? Dirt is an intriguing podcast when listened to, its narrative completely absorbs the listener into the fabric of the show. Pretty much everyone enjoys the thrill of a good treasure hunt right? It’s almost human nature not to get caught up in the romanticism of an expedition into the unknown. Well, Dirt gives the listener a healthy double shot of a good old-fashioned mystery. I for one am in (lock, stock, & barrel) and cannot wait for season two, which will be dropping at some point this year so you won’t have long to wait to find out the next instalment in Joseph’s crusade.
Final thoughts, if you like what you have read in my review, definitely take a look at Dirt’s official website which is packed full of information about the show. It is also worth pointing out that Dirt is an independent podcast, with Kris wearing multiple hats seamlessly, and if this review has piqued your interest please rate & review the show in order to spread the word. Kris is currently running a small trivia competition to receive a Dirt sticker which is another cool touch that I will most definitely be partaking in!
I really hope you have enjoyed reading this review for ‘Dirt – an audio drama’ which is unquestionably worth checking out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or from wherever you get your podcasts from. If you are a fan of Dirt, then I highly recommend another puzzle-based podcast ‘The Cipher’ written by Brett Neichin.
Are you looking to have your podcast or audio drama reviewed? Well look no further you’ve unexpectedly found your perfect partner; Tea in the Sahara! Whatever your podcast genre please do get in touch via any of the below methods or through my contacts page, and check out my other reviews cheers Kev.