Tea in the Sahara
Kev – Fiction Podcast Critic
Over the last few weeks, I have been blessed with reviewing some truly out-of-this-world, A-plus, exciting, independent podcasters. So to keep things fresh, and mix it up a little, this week I thought I would head on down Main Street, and mosey on into Commercial Town with one of the best production companies (QCODE), and their latest podcast offering ‘Soft Voice’.
Even as I write this review Soft Voice sits at #1 on Apple’s podcast charts which is totally insane. Why the insanity you might ask? Well this top spot, number one charting position comes just after one episode of Soft Voice airing. This early winners medal comfortably demonstrates (early doors) how on-trend, and in-demand this awesome show already is!
But before my review, and all of that good stuff if you haven’t you should check out my review of ‘Dirty Diana’ which has recently been nominated for a handful of Ambies awards, including a podcast of the year & best fiction podcasts (fingers crossed QCODE!) This review of Soft Voice brings my tally of QCODE reviews to four lovingly put together; not that I’m not counting you guys!
(Spoiler ALERT) if you have not already listened to the first few episodes just yet, as I will be dispensing my own early thoughts, and opinions on the podcast within this review.
Written, and created by James Bloor, with Naomi Scott playing Lydia, Bel Pawley as Soft Voice, & Olivia Cooke as Dark Voice giving this show a British all-female-fronted casting which is fantastic! All three actors co-produced the show, which is also directed by James Bloor.
Soft Voice’s plot is based around Lydia (Naomi Scott), a twenty-five-year-old estate agent from London with an unusual companion, Soft Voice (Bel Pawley). Soft Voice is not your traditional podcast companion as Soft Voice resides inside Lydia’s head as an internal imaginary voice offering up the best solutions, tactics, & advice on Lydia’s everyday life. That selection pivots on advice ranging from which trendy yoghurt to buy, how best to sell a flat, to personal matters such as which boyfriend to date, how to master Italian, and successfully play the oboe.
Soft Voice originally came into Lydia’s life when she was a child, and through Soft Voice’s ongoing guidance Lydia triumphs with everything that she does and prides one of her biggest achievements on having her own flat with a jacuzzi bath. Ahh, how good life is with Soft Voice?
The writing style of Soft Voice really reminds me of the hit series Fleabag by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and you can draw similarities between both shows as I think they are universally relatable shows. Okay, let me expand a little on that sweeping statement. The clever way the framing & direction of scenes set within Soft Voice really bring the show into focus.
For example, Monday morning sales meeting at Hatchet & Sprig with Branch manager Trevor creeping it up to maximum. For me (in my head) this is how I envision estate agent meetings to go. The Hugh Grant-Esque barrister boyfriend Graham who only chats to Lydia through WhatsApp notes almost made me fall off my chair in laughter!
And that’s the trick and winning formula you see. Making ordinary people with seemingly dull jobs come to life in a way that we can all relate to. Those relatable thoughts help to link the listener almost directly into the show (if that makes sense?)
Being an ex-Londoner I can instantly visualise events that take place within the big smoke. The after-work pub drinks on a school night that progressed to a nightclub ushered in my own memories of doing that very exact thing which was a welcomed drop of nostalgia.
The cleverly embedded nuances of finishing said night out, and finding everyone in your group lives in SE London, and you live in East, meaning a solo tube journey home drunk can have only been written by someone that has lived that experience!
Another reason why this podcast has all the hallmarks of a winning show is the beautifully immersive way that the surroundings sucks the listener into Lydia’s headspace along with Soft Voice. The cute ‘jam tomorrow’ milestone targets Lydia sets in order to reward herself for doing something she hates is something as humans we all intrinsically do.
I also like that Soft Voice isn’t just a quiet performer she comes with her own set of ground rules. Those no-nonsense, strict rules include no radio, no satnav, and ironically definitely no true crime podcasts (wonder if that was an in-house joke?)
Life and winning seem to go hand in hand for Lydia until one-day Soft Voice suddenly leaves! No reason, no explanation, pure radio silence. This is where the wheels of success fall off for Lydia in a massive way as we are introduced to another voice inside Lydia’s head who’s just moved in, Dark Voice (Olivia Cooke). I cannot wait to see what Dark Voice has to install for our Lydia as I think things are about to get even crazier. Or as the kids might say sh*t is about to get real!
Character-wise I adore Bel Pawley’s strict, monotone, nonchalant, vocal delivery as Soft Voice which is the standout performance of the show so far. Another character I really liked for all the wrong reasons was the ‘difficult man’ within the apartment viewing scene. A hilarious condescending pr*ck that we have all had the displeasure of meeting at some point in our lives. This character was excellently written in a wonderfully awkward British setting.
So why is this podcast as popular as a sea shanty at the moment? Again the writer’s imaginative way of writing about ordinary events we can all relate to makes this podcast impossible not to like. That, and being flanked by some absolutely talented actors in Naomi Scott, Olivia Cooke, and Bel Pawley makes this podcast one of the most exciting releases of the year. I mean who wouldn’t want your own Soft Voice? I guess there are times in life we all wish we had someone telling us what the optimum route to success was to take. Or a personal barometer telling us the right path to choose, or even an inbuilt Geiger counter to warn you of impending danger!
I personally wouldn’t review a podcast until at least three episodes in however, such is the class of this show I decided to take the plunge early. I am also going to break the trend and nail my colours to the mast and state that if Soft Voice doesn’t continue to be the runaway success it deserves, I’ll eat my own hat (hat on standby!)
I really hope you have enjoyed reading this review for ‘Soft Voice’ which is so worth checking out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts from. If my review strikes a chord with you I highly recommend you head over to the official QCODE website for more details about all of their other great podcasts. Or better still if this review has piqued your interest please rate & review the show in order to spread the word! And lastly best of luck to the QCODE family with The Ambies in May I’m sure you’ll bring home some silverware.
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 whilst you are there why not check out my other podcast reviews (links below) and perhaps leave a cheeky comment! Cheers, Kev.