Dirt Q&A with Kris Kaiyala

Dirt Q&A with Kris Kaiyala

Who said the only exciting thing to happen in November was black Friday!  Traditionally Tea in the Sahara would offer up the best shop window of podcasts for you lovely people to tune into. This week guys is different, and as promised in my recent newsletter (plug) we sit down for a Q&A with Kris Kaiyala, the indie podcast magician pulling all the strings behind his hit audio drama ‘Dirt’.

Dirt has an IKEA minimalist modern & historical vibe, excellently presented and brilliantly executed by the man-dem Kris Kaiyala! I have previously had the pleasure of reviewing both seasons of Dirt which you should listen to for further context as this week it is not about being a parrot, and more about getting on with the Q&A.

I must quickly say before we kick on with the Q&A a lively shout out to Kris for answering my slightly niche questions in record time! If an indie podcast deserves more accolades and appreciation none is more fitting than Dirt. Remember guys most indie podcasts are usually performed by one or two people wearing multiple hats to get sh*t done on top of the daily grind. If James Brown was the hardest working musician in showbusiness, then Kris is definitely the James Brown of audio drama. Hope you like the analogy fella?

Tea in the Sahara reviews of season one & season two of Dirt.

How did you get into podcasting?

Good question. I didn’t actually set out to be a podcaster. Prior to a couple of years ago, I hadn’t given the medium much thought or attention. But I had been toying with several short fiction ideas for years and was thinking about how I wanted to go about crafting and publishing them, when two things happened: I listened to Limetown Season 1, and then the pandemic hit. When I heard Limetown, it just set my mind ablaze. The story itself was interesting, but the serialised fiction format floored me—the idea of telling a story in chapters that could be released as podcast episodes and that could easily be available on Apple or Spotify right alongside the greats. I had never considered that as an option before. The idea of telling a contemporary story with highly immersive audio and music—it just hit me as something that I could try to do and potentially have a lot of fun doing it.

After Limetown I promptly binged Girl in Space, The Message, Ghost Radio Project, Temujin, Homecoming, The Black Tapes, Vega, Point Mystic, and other podcasts I absolutely cherish, studying their styles and techniques. This was in the fall of 2019 and early 2020, before Covid was a big news story. Weeks later I was working remotely like so many people around the world, and I figured it was a good time to really dig in and try to make a go of it on top of my day job. It’s turned out to be an incredibly creative outlet, and I’ve loved every moment of it.

For those not so familiar with the podcast, where did the concept of Dirt come from?

Dirt is kind of a mashup of several story ideas I had brewing in my head. For one, I’d always wanted to tell a story that conveys the beauty and harshness of the “other” Washington—the part of the state that isn’t Seattle or what people commonly know or see on postcards. There’s a whole other aspect to Washington state that is mostly barren deserts and rocky chasms and lonely crops of all kinds. To me, that part of the state has always felt like home, probably because I grew up outside of Spokane, a city in eastern Washington, and spent my youth traveling from small town to small town visiting family or competing in soccer—or I guess you’d call it football over there.

The idea of the driver’s license literally came from me finding a license of Yakima woman in the street one morning, in downtown Seattle, as I was walking in to the office. The first name of the person on the license might have even been Antonia, I can’t remember for sure. I put the license in an envelope and mailed it back to its owner anonymously, without a return address. But in my mind, I was like… What if someone decided to return the license in-person, instead, since the address is right there on the license? Why would someone choose to do that, for a stranger? What would that encounter be like?

And then the historical part of Dirt is largely based on my own family heritage and Finnish-American roots in the Pacific Northwest. I actually do have a Finnish grandfather who lived an adventurous life and who was a musician and who wrote stories about his life around Washington and Oregon and who took up metal detecting in his later years.

Was Joseph’s character loosely based on someone in real life?

Not really, but I’ve worked on and led teams in digital advertising for quite a while, so the character of Joseph—and the environment he operates in—are familiar to me. Also, his connection, or maybe disconnection, to his family heritage is also familiar to me. I’m aware of my family roots and have always been very interested in them, but I’m also a couple of generations removed from those early days when immigrant families like the Kaiyalas made a go of it around Grays Harbor. And plus, even though I now live in Seattle, growing up on the other side of the state I was a little separated from the rest of the family tree. In Dirt, Joseph is connecting more with his heritage as he goes, and in a sense, I am too.

How hard was it creating Dirt largely by yourself?

It has been difficult at times, but the honest answer is that it has been 100% amazing. From the beginning, I wanted to do mostly by myself. Not because I don’t like working with others. I do. It’s been awesome collaborating with the voice actors, many of whom are friends and co-workers. And my wife, Sara, and other family members have been a huge help at every step along the way. But when it came down to making the show, I sort of jealously kept it all to myself. I really wanted to wear all the hats and learn about and get good at every aspect of creating and producing immersive audio. I crave owning every role—writing, recording, sound designing, casting, composing, and directing. The hardest part has been the time it takes to put all the pieces together, especially since I do it during off hours. But I absolutely love the creative control and freedom I have over it. I collaborate with people all day long in my day job, which is great, so this project has been an interesting contrast to that.

I have highlighted the audio quality within Dirt a few times within both of my reviews. Were you a sound design engineer in a previous life?

Ha, no. The closest I ever got to something like this was recording funny skits on cassette tapes as a teenager in the ‘80s (just dated myself). Oh, and I used to write and record goofy answering machine greetings for my parents with character voices and background music, just to make them laugh. Dirt is my first serious attempt at creating something for the world at large to consume and hopefully enjoy.

As you have created quality soundtracks for both seasons of Dirt you clearly have an ear for quality music & audio. How did you come across Mya Tozzi whom we can hear singing within ep.10?

Thanks for saying that. Scoring and placing the music has been another super fun component of this project. Mya is pretty great, isn’t she? She’s my sister’s niece, so I’ve known about her for quite a while! A few years ago, she started posting videos of herself playing and singing songs on her Instagram and I knew I had to find a way to involve her. I also knew she was writing her own material, and I suspected her style would fit the podcast well. Fans of Season 1 of Dirt will also recognize her as the performer of “Skin Touching Sinew,” in Chapter 6.

Your writing depicts parts of America that are not so frequently heard of. Speaking as someone based in the UK I found it insightful to listen to. Was raising the profile of Seattle done intentionally?

Really, it’s just me writing about things that I know and that are important to me. The US is pretty big, and it’s so different from place to place—especially in the west where geology and geography play key roles in people’s lives. I grew up in an area that isn’t often in the spotlight, so I understand if the setting, especially when the story ventures outside of Seattle, is new to many listeners. To me, that was part of the allure of the story. I want the land to be a character of its own. 

Seattle is a big global city, but even Seattle is unknown to a lot of people. (And a lot of people who live here would prefer it stay that way, feeling there are already too many people here.) But interestingly, you only have to drive an hour or two in any direction from Seattle and it can feel like you are heading off the grid, just like what happens to Joseph in Chapter 8. 

The description of the Coinmaster metal detector is so detailed I wondered if metal detecting was perhaps a hobby of your own?

No, I’ve never done it. I’m only familiar with it as a hobby that my grandfather took up later in his life, in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Us grandkids used to call it his “beeper” because of the noise it made when it detected something. But it was an easy device to weave into the story once I decided on the basic premise. I actually bought a vintage detector on eBay that is very similar to the one my grandfather used decades ago. The detector handling sounds you hear throughout the chapters—the plastic grip, the opening of clasps and covers, the clicking of switches on and off—those are literally the sounds of a vintage detector in my hands as I’m recording.

What recording equipment and software do you use to create the show? Any tips or tricks to share?

The recorder I use is a Zoom H5, which is a terrific device. The stock XY stereo microphone capsule it comes with does an amazing job of picking up environmental and even vocal audio. For narration I use a Shure KSM32 microphone, which I’m not ashamed to say I purchased because I had read that’s what they use on This American Life. And for almost all of the dialogue I use a Sennheiser MKE600 shotgun mic. I really love the crisp sound it produces. I use a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 as an audio interface between the mics and my computer, and I edit everything using Adobe Audition. For the music, I proudly use Garage Band on my iPad. It’s an amazingly powerful, and I suppose underrated, app. And for the handful of sounds I’m not able to record or produce myself, I make creative use of uploads on freesound.org, which is an incredible resource. You just have to make sure you’re paying close attention to attribution licenses so you are using sounds correctly.

One tip I would share is if you are a budding sound designer or audio mixer, make sure you listen to your edited sound files away from your workspace. My routine goes like this: build a scene, mix it down, then listen to it in the backyard or on a walk with my shiba inu Reggie using different headphones or earbuds, make note of changes as I listen, go back in and make those edits, mix it down again, then listen again in the backyard or on a walk while taking notes, etc. Repeat this until it sounds the way you want. I’ve found that separating the listening experience from the editing experience is really key to making things sound as complete and polished as possible. 

Gun against head moment, so far what has been your favourite episode of Dirt?

Oh, this is tough. Parents aren’t supposed to name favorite children, right? I think in terms of production and draw-you-in moments, I really like Chapter 4 (S1 E4) and Chapter 8 (S2 E2). I have always loved how quiet Chapter 4 is in places. There’s a risk in being quiet, because the norm is to be loud and flashy in order to get people’s attention. In Chapter 4 there’s a lot of activity and mystery swirling about in the periphery, but the moment when Joseph rolls down the car window for Kim to hear the train in the distance, or at the end of the chapter when he walks to the opposite wall of the garage and realizes what’s there in front of him and the soft music kicks in, those are moments where I still sit back and I’m like, wow, that turned out pretty cool.

I know this is a cheeky Q given you have only just wrapped up season two, however is season three currently in pre-production?

Well, I can’t leave people hanging like that at the end of chapter 13, can I?

Finally for any budding indie podcaster out there looking to get into the fantastic world of podcasting what advice would you give them?

I would want Dirt to be evidence that you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment or a huge staff or even a fancy studio space in order to create immersive audio fiction. If you think you need those things before you can even get started, you don’t. The equipment I use is good, but it’s not top of the line stuff. Don’t get overwhelmed or stalled out by thoughts like that at the beginning. Big podcast production houses do come with the added benefits of marketing support and paid sponsorship and revenue, which I can admit to being jealous of. But if you have an idea and just want to get something out in the world as a creative outlet, buy a decent recorder—such as a Zoom H5, which is what I primarily use for environment recording—and start playing around with it. 

To me, there’s no better way to tell or consume a story than through audio. Audio puts your imagination in the driver’s seat; it’s where the proverbial magic happens. And it’s a great way to start to tell that story or stories you’ve been hanging on to for a while. 

Once again thanks to Kris for agreeing to do this Q&A with me, and for being a jolly good sport. Although we have never actually met I like to imagine we share similar insights into the exciting indie podcasting space which is rapidly developing.

As you can see guys my writing style is far from a neutral Switzerland, which I hope in some insane way appeals? True I am not the coolest beer in the fridge, however what I like to offer is awesome scripted podcast reviews to captivate imaginations. You see I try not to offer a flurry of fire-sale style reviews, opting for a more less is less policy. Again not everyone’s cup of tea, moreover for me writing should simply engage with its audience.

So where can you find out more about Tea in the Sahara? Well funny you should ask! Recently I launched a newsletter that aims  to keep you up to date with all of the latest reviews & Q&A blog banter happening. If you haven’t checked it out yet you can sign up via my Twitter profile, or by using the small Revue sign up box at the end of this review.

If you are a writer, creator, or production company looking to have your podcast reviewed just like Kris surely Tea in the Sahara has to be worth a punt? If you enjoyed this Q&A format, and are looking to give your future fans more context about your own podcast then maybe (just maybe) I am the Indie Podcast Critic Writer that you have been looking for? Please get in touch via my contacts page, or email me directly tinthesaharah@gmail.com.

You can follow more about Dirt on their website and the show can be found on Apple Podcasts & Spotify or from wherever you grab your podcasts from. Just make sure you do!

For further Tea in the Sahara reviews please check out my other podcast & audio-book reviews. And to all my American readers, and pals I have worked with throughout the years Happy Thanksgiving! Cheers Kev.

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Dirt – season two – podcast review

Dirt – season two – podcast review

Back in March this year I had the pleasure of reviewing a truly awesome scripted podcast called ‘Dirt’ by the gifted Kris Kaiyala. Well at last Dirt is back with season two, and Kris has kindly given me an exclusive sneak peek of episodes seven to thirteen which covers about a four day story-arc time frame.

And yep, like a cheeky boomerang on it’s return flight I’m on hand with a small review on why you should jump on this super slick inde podcast. A podcast that in my opinion should be as popular as the runaway viral Netflix’s series Squid Game!

Kris writes, produces, directs, and is also the voice behind lead character Joseph Elo for STUDIO5705. In case you didn’t read my review of series one of Dirt you should head over there for further context. And once you have done that consider binge listening to Dirt on your podcast player of choice; trust in old Kev you will thank me!

For all those Amazon Prime peeps with zero patience looking for a fast-track I have you covered with this brief synopsis – the plot around Dirt follows lead character & narrator Joseph (Kris Kaiyala), a successful Seattle playboy CEO, and owner of a futuristic app development agency.

Joseph receives a letter in the post from his grandfather, which wouldn’t make for much of a gripping story-line, however Joseph’s grandfather Aimo passed away over thirty years ago. Queue a treasure hunt across the States portrayed with all of its beautiful topography. This podcast is definitely an audio adventure for those keen to understand America’s unseen historical past, which thankfully does not include Disneyland.

The second series transitions pleasantly from the first season with Joseph seemingly hot on a breadcrumb treasure trail of boxes filled with connecting puzzles & clues supposedly left by Aimo.

Although the files I listened to were in draft format that takes nothing away from the magic of this immersive audio drama. Kris’s continued detailed narration is pitch perfect for a narrator/lead character. For me the key takeaway from this exceptional podcast is the level of sound production that Kris stamps into every episode.

It is that eye for detail, and level of high definition audio which makes this podcast stand head & shoulders above others. I’ve banged on about this before in my previous review, however Sizzling bacon, buzzing metal detectors, guitar band feedback noises feel so nuanced and tangible within Dirt.

When a character is simply walking around within a scene the effort & thought process that has gone into making you aware of different surfaces they are treading on can be heard. It honestly feels as if you are physically walking beside Joseph on his treasure hunt across a richly depicted landscape.

Mr Kaiyala has an audio ninja ear for sound with the ability to create lush soundscapes that our characters encounter. These include, but are not limited to bustling bars, and even sea planes landings on water! There are few indie podcasts that offer up such a rich texture of sound & audio detail. The cool segway beats from Dirts previous series is back and incorporated into season two, seemingly guiding the listener from one plot scenario to the next.

Like Aimo’s canny treasure hunt the listener is introduced to background music supplied by the super soulful Mya Tozzi who performs the track “Me and My Other” at the end of chapters ten & thirteen. Mya has an effortless, angelic voice which made my mind wander, transferring me somewhere else; a warm place where you can relax & sip strong cocktails type of fantasy place. Another ace inclusion into the cannon of this amazing podcast which blends so well into those scenes.

I previously knew zero about Mya Tozzi, but if you take yet another thing away from one of my reviews definitely check her out via her Bandcamp page: https://towniemusic.bandcamp.com where you can purchase tracks used within Dirt, and support an incredible artist.

In terms of story line I won’t go into too much detail and steal the listener’s thunder and ruin the experience for you guys. Let’s just say Kris has cranked up the continual story line to eleven adding yet more fun escapades for our character Joseph to fall into. Oh and fans of the whole zebra crossing fake moustache & eyebrow combo will be happy as it surfaces again within season two.

Most of the regular characters return including Antonia Flores (Megan Morales), who returns with a touch more sass than from the previous season which is fun. Fan favourite of mine Mrs Fixit herself; Mel (Jessi Brown) is back, and is as sarcastic as ever which is wonderful for this overtly sarcastic Brit reviewer!

Let’s close out with opinion time. If season two of Dirt was an album, then Kris has certainly beaten off the curse of the difficult second album. What he has managed to do in my opinion is produce yet another award winning podcast which I cannot wait to listen to in its finalised form.

So without sounding like a Dirt fanboy I urge you to listen to this podcast if you enjoy your audio drama’s with a contemporary vibe, and shrewd nod to the past. Dirt will definitely be right up your alley. Clever writing backed by awesome audio are the last words I will leave you with if you still happen to be on the fence with smashing that download & subscribe button.

Dirt season two launches on the 2nd November and as far as the format goes, it’s one new episode released per week on all platforms starting with episode seven & going through Chapter thirteen. However if you don’t want to wait a week for new episodes you can pay to subscribe to gain instant access to all of the new episodes to binge to your hearts content. 

And that’s it folks, this short review is finito! Let’s move into any other business. Recently I launched my first newsletter celebrating Halloween, and a selection of horror themed podcasts that I have reviewed this year. So if you haven’t checked it out yet you can sign up via my Twitter profile, or by using the small sign up box at the end of this review.

Kris Kaiyala has also agreed to a Q&A sesh with Tea in the Sahara in the near future which will offer you lucky podcast fans further insight into how Kris made Dirt so bloody good!

If you are a writer, creator, or production company looking to have your podcast reviewed just like Kris maybe you should consider Tea in the Sahara? Perhaps you like the previous Q&A format that I have done, and are looking for something similar for your own review? If that is the case, then maybe (just maybe) I am the Independent Podcast Critic Writer you have been looking for. Please get in touch via my contacts page, or email me directly tinthesaharah@gmail.com.

You can follow more about Dirt on their website and the podcast can be found on Apple Podcasts & Spotify or from wherever you grab your podcasts from. Just make sure you do!

For further Tea in the Sahara reviews please check out my other podcast & audio-book reviews. Until the next time podcast people, cheers Kev.

Credits:
Written, directed, produced, and composed by Kristopher Kaiyala

Season 2 principal cast:
Jessi Brown (Mel), Genie Leslie (Kim), Megan Morales (Antonia), Aaron Patterson, (Carl), Kristopher Kaiyala (Joseph)

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‘See You In Your Nightmares’ – podcast review

‘See You In Your Nightmares’ – podcast review

As we lunge into autumn/fall this months particular podcast review came as an absolute no brainer after barely listening to thirty seconds of it’s trailer! Let me know if the trailer did it for you as well? 

You see guys this months podcast fits like a glove with the changes in the season, and as the nights draw in and summer becomes a distant memory I wanted to introduce you to a stunning horror podcast aptly ‘See You In Your Nightmares’.

However before we march on I would quickly like to thank those marvellous people down at iHeartRadio for reaching out to me and recommending I take my ears for a spin with one of their latest podcasts offerings. Again cheers to Alison Hemmings & Jenn Powers for the intro to this awesome 3D podcast best enjoyed through headphones.

Additionally if you haven’t already I highly recommend you checking out my reviews of iHeartRadio’s  ‘Aftershock’ and my follow on Q&A blog with writer/director/actor Sarah Wayne Callies.

‘See You In Your Nightmares’ is a 12 part scripted horror podcast from Einhorn’s Epic Productions, and iHeartRadio that has an ever so faint ‘Stranger Things’ vibe which will appeal to fans of the hit Netflix show. 

The podcast follows Seventeen year old Harper Hart (Rachel Oremland) a willing patient at the Lutwidge Wellness Centre. Reasons for her admission to the centre is Harper suffers from extreme insomnia, and claims to have lucid dreams of a monster following the tragic death of her twin sister Callie a year earlier.

This event leads Harper to believe she has shadows living within her head, and feels the radically futuristic treatment led by Dr Carter & her team as the only solution to cure Harper’s rare sleeping disorder.

At the centre Dr Faith Carter (Keri Tombazian) along with sidekick Finn (Phil Buckman) use the latest AI wearable technology called Blossom to cure patients of their nightmares. Blossom is a small Fitbit-esque wearable watch device that more than captures how many steps you have achieved in a day (or not in my own case!)

The Blossom device monitors literally every action Harper and the rest of the centre’s patients make like a souped up Alexa on steroids. Again a clever piece of writing which really taps into our own current virtual assistant AI world of smart phones, Peloton bikes, and Alexa devices.

With the Blossom device activated the centre can monitor the patients to fully understand why they have such chronic nightmares and sleep deprivation. And as we all know popular culture dictates these ‘help’ style facilities never do what they say they will on the tin. Nine times out of ten they have a very sinister ulterior motive in mind.

That is before I mention the Blossom room set in the basement (Dun, dun, dun!) So the Blossom room is where Harper goes for what is called rotation, and where the good Dr monitors Harper’s immersive dream patterns that are super very freaky to listen to. This is where the 3D sound really comes into its own.

It is also within this dream like state where Harper comes face to face with her dead sister Callie, and Harper’s very own monster in all its spine-chilling form.

The dark detecting tech theme the show opted for raises a valid point about how much society freely gives away it’s personal data to government bodies, and tech giants alike.

Spookily during the write up of this very review WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, are down facing supposed outages. Remember folk’s like George Orwell’s science fiction novel 1984, big brother is always watching!

Four-ish episodes in its summary time folks! So let’s categorise this podcast into it’s good, and the not so good and unpack some truths. Starting in reverse order lets get my small gripe points out of the way first.

When one of our characters enters the sleep induced Blossom room where Dr Carter monitors their sleep patterns at times the audio can become slightly confusing with lots of shouting, and heavy breathing within these sequences.

I know the purpose of these scenes is to help create context, and depth by demonstrating individual nightmares faced. That be said at times I found myself having to revisit some of these scenes a few times, and re-listen to them to fully grasp what was going on.

Another small thing that slightly jarred was the beep-beep sound that the blossom device makes when activated, which really reminded me of a similar noise supermarket doors make when they open & close. Maybe that’s just me, but ponder that statement next time you enter your local convenience store for a loaf of bread and a pint of milk!

So that’s Kev’s niche blemishes out the way, lets concentrate on the reason why I am truly enjoying this audio drama. I love, love me some horror podcast! Come to think it I haven’t reviewed a gripping big production horror podcast like this since QCODE’s ‘From Now’.

The sound team behind that all important 3D sound, created by Sarah Gibble-Laskathe really transport’s you directly into each characters nightmares. Sonically creating an abstract, Alice in Wonderland dreamscape based solely in audio is by no means an easy feat.

This podcast also has a real winner in the form of lead character Harper Hart, however I always like to rate a podcast not only by it’s lead, but by the supporting cast. Few come better than fellow Brit Alfie (Obi Abili) who’s insanely infectious personality reminded me of my own pals back in London with lines like ‘big man tings’, ‘safe’ and ‘init!’

Another character to mention is Finn one of the staff members at the centre. Finn is the typical slippery salesman type vaguely similar to Burke from the action 1980’s movie Aliens. You know the type of chap who you desperately want to believe is doing the honest thing by you, but in reality hides behind buzz words & corporate slogans; that’s Finn.

Bizarrely I have a soft spot for the villain within a podcast, and not always the lead protagonist. Odd I know, but in reality we kinda know roughly what path the good guy/gal will take to either glory or redemption. Getting a good baddie right, well that’s not so simple.

Getting the right amount of menace within a pure audio setting can be tricky. Dr Faith Carter is a class act at balancing narcissistic behaviour with flawless professional demeanour, and making it look easy. Remember folks the devil wears Prada!

So as I said at the top of this review if you enjoyed Stranger Things, you will most definitely like this podcast. The dreamlike world our cast enter when in the Blossom room has traits of the upside-down world within Stranger Things. Look out for the dream-jumping element that Harper & the cast develop as the series progresses which is uber cool!

The concept & writing is modern & fresh flanked by a talented cast, and incredibly vibrant audio sound so what’s not to like? Being a man who enjoys the occasional flutter my money is on the seasons finale coinciding with Halloween conveniently around the corner.

The artwork by Yejin Park, Key Art & Promotional Art illustrator should also get a mention for it’s slick, quirky, anime styling. The shimmering blue backdrop with all of those creepy cascading eyes captures the essence of this awesome podcast perfectly.

There we are folks another review completed. Shortly I will be giving you lucky people more Tea in the Sahara content in the shape of a newsletter. Details to follow, and suggestions on content are more than welcome.

Here’s the thing guys, Tea in the Sahara is my hobby and creative outlet that I am able to commit say 30% of my time to because like most people I have a full time job. My dream goal would be to move my creative writing from a part-time hobby into a full time gig.

I know Rome wasn’t built in a day, or even over a weekend, but just think about the quality of content I could write if I was doing this 100% full-time? As they say the possibilities could be endless!

Are you are a writer, creator, or production company looking to have your podcast reviewed? Perhaps you like the previous Q&A format that I have done, and are looking for your own review? If that is the case, then maybe (just maybe) I am the Independent Podcast Critic Writer you have been looking for. Please get in touch via my contacts page, or email me directly tinthesaharah@gmail.com.

You can follow more about ‘See You In your Nightmares’ at seeyouinyourdreams.com and the podcast can be found on Apple Podcasts & Spotify or from wherever you grab your podcasts from.

For further Tea in the Sahara reviews please check out my other podcast & audio-book reviews. Until the next time podcast people, cheers Kev.

Podcast credits

Created & Executive Produced by Heather Einhorn and Adam Staffaroni.
Head Writer – Ren Dara Santiago
Writers – Lynn Bixenspan, Kayla Brooks, Morgan Pielli, and Adam Staffaroni.
Directed by Jordana Williams
Post Sound & Music by: Chapter Four
Sound Supervision and Sound Design by: Sarah Gibble-Laska
Music by: Karim Douaidy

Cast

Rachel Oremland as Harper Hart
Obi Abili as Alfie
Phil Buckman as Finn
Amber Lee Connors as Callie
Giselle Fernandez as Esme
Judy Alice Lee as Julia
Robert Leng as The Smiling Man & The Caretaker/Kai
Marwan Salama as Chris
With Stephanie Willing as Blossom
And Keri Tombazian as Dr. Faith Carter
With additional Voices: Gayle Artino, Maxwell Siegel

Aftershock Q&A with Sarah Wayne Callies

Aftershock Q&A with Sarah Wayne Callies

This weeks Q&A review is sponsored by good old Lady Luck! Or if you are a bit of a show off and enjoy being snazzy you could use her full title, Fortuna the Goddess of Fortune! Jokes aside, like finding a crisp twenty pound note on the pavement lady luck briefly smiled down on Tea in the Sahara towers, and I for one am thrilled to share my EXCLUSIVE Aftershock Q&A with you guys!

A quick recap, a few weeks back I reviewed the awesome Aftershock and was presented with the opportunity to put forward some questions to the wonderful people down at iHeartRadio. They then presented said questions to writer, creator, and director Sarah Wayne Callies to comment on.

I was even cheeky enough to put a few questions directly to iHeartRadio, and the talented chap behind the podcasts sound design Jeff Schmidt for comments. Well, in for a penny and all that; or to continue the Latin luck theme – when in Rome, do as the Romans do!

So I pulled together my questions, fired them over (fingers crossed), and waited for a response. Cut to the real world where I reside, and in all honesty never in a million years did I think that I would receive anything back. You see us Brits are not the most ‘luckiest’ nation when it comes to well, luck.

Fast forward a few days, and as if by magic I received a response email from iHeartMedia with all of my questions answered! Guys to put this into context for you, it felt like I had received a telegram from the Queen inviting me & the wife over for afternoon tea, and afterwards a cheeky game of croquet!

Reality check, it is worth noting that this did not all just happen by pure chance. There was some super kind intervention by Imran, over at Great Pods who kindly connected me with the people at iHeartRadio. If you eat, sleep, podcast, repeat, like me then head over to Great Pods where you will find indie podcast reviews on every type of podcast genre possible. Trust me you will not regret it!

I would also like to give a shout out to the wonderful Jenn Powers & Alison Hemmings from iHeartMedia for making this all happen. Thank you ladies for being so kind & professional with every silly detail I had.

Finally a massive thank you goes out to the talented Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeff Schmidt, and Noel Brown, Podcast Lead Executive Producer for iHeartMedia for answering these questions. Thank you all for taking some time out of your busy schedules for me. Your creativity, and generosity is the reason why I continue to write about podcasting.

So as you can see folks this weeks reviewing format is very different, but you know what they say, change is as good as a holiday!

We open the Q&A with questions put to Sarah Wayne Callies:

Is this your first first podcast? What influenced you to get into podcasting?

Yes, it’s my first podcast – as a creator.  I’ve been a fan of pods for years and watching the emergence of scripted shows made me keen to create my own. There are many reasons for that, but certainly, right now, we’ve all got a fair amount of screen fatigue. Telling an immersive story where the audience can go on a ride while resting their eyes – that sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?  

Do you have plans to work on any other future podcasts? As a creative type I am sure that you have plenty of ideas!

I’ve got a slate of ideas I’m developing, both on the scripted and non-scripted sides. One of the great joys of my career is having worked with some really brilliant thinkers and performers.  I’m excited to bring some of those folks into the pod world to play together.  

When writing the series did you already have in mind who she wanted cast within the lead roles for the podcast? What influenced your decisions? 

I had a lot of the casting already in my mind, for sure. David and Jeffrey both have such distinctive voices that have a really fascinating balance of power and restraint. They were in my head from the beginning, especially as a pairing. And then sometimes I’d be talking with a friend and hear them a certain way, and I’d think OH! I have to beg you to be in this with me! Austin was like that – we were chatting about something, and I realized he’d be brilliant for Sean. 

Are you planning to record a second series of Aftershock? If yes, are you able to advise/give any hints on the timeline for this?

I’ve got ideas for a season two.  I’m not sure how podcasting works, getting ‘picked up for more seasons… I’m kind of learning as I go. But I have known from the beginning how the story ends, and I’d love a chance to get all the way there.  

How long did it take to produce Aftershock?

Forever. Thanks to the pandemic. But it was something creative to work on while all the sets were shut down, and that was such a gift. It made it a lot harder, production-wise, because we couldn’t use sound booths. But it did make scheduling easier – none of the actors had conflicts because no one could shoot during that peak Covid time when we were recording in our homes.  

If you had to detail both your highest, and most challenging moments throughout the whole journey, from writing through to production what would these be?

Learning to write for audio was certainly a new skill set for me. Balancing voices, making sure there weren’t too many people in a scene to follow, realizing there’s no such thing as an audio close-up…. it taught me a new way of telling stories. As for a high – the first full mix I heard of the first episode was a thrill. Our audio engineer, Jeff Schmidt, is a genius.  I had no idea how he would make the earthquake real, the aftershocks, the tidal waves. It seemed impossible. But Jeff’s a genius, and he brought it all to life. That was pure joy to hear.

Questions put to Jeff Schmidt, sound design on Aftershock:

I really enjoyed the immersive sound design created within Aftershock, and acknowledged Jeff Schmidt as a fifth Beatle!
Would it please be possible to understand in a few simple words how he created the incredible soundscape within this podcast, as I would love to be able to share this with my followers. 

In Film & TV, the primary role of sound is to support the image. In audio stories, sound IS the image, so it’s been helpful for me to think about sound in Audio stories more like Cinematography, which is more upfront than “Sound Design,” which is traditionally more supportive. I design the soundscape to be as rich and stylized as the story warrants and then push it a bit more. Like saturation and light with camera exposure, I want the world to pop and feel alive with detail as if it were a character itself.

I want the characters to be tightly glued into this world to avoid sounding like actors in close-ups with sound effects as background. So all the character movement and interactions within the world need to be present and as detailed as possible. I also experiment with mimicking camera techniques like the “Push Zoom” (as in Lawrence’s death scene and Cassie meets Wayne in the RedCross Shelter scene from Episode 1).

And to close we have a response from Noel Brown, Podcast Lead Executive Producer for iHeartMedia:

Within my review I quoted how the show raised awareness of climate change. Apart from that, and fantastic writing, what was it that iHeartRadio saw within this podcast series?

“Aftershock” has the rare distinction of being both an incredibly immersive action series and a poignant and thoughtful story of women’s empowerment. We knew this show would resonate with podcast audiences from the moment we first heard the pilot. Sarah and her team have truly created something special.

Well there you have it folks my first exclusive Aftershock scoop neatly wrapped up for you. I really hope that you enjoyed this snippet into the making of this amazing podcast?
I also hope that through my writing you can visualise the effort & collaboration that went into making this review a success. Again, a shout out to Imran for connecting the dots, and opening the door for me (cheers fella!)

As you can see my writing style is more cult classic, than best seller. I take inspiration from everything that lifes rich tapestry has to offer, and try to creatively weave this into my writing. So if you are looking for a review as edgy as the next Radiohead album, you are in luck.

Are you are a writer, creator, or production company looking to have your podcast reviewed? Perhaps you like this Q&A format, and are looking for your own review? If that is the case, then maybe (just maybe) I am the Independent Podcast Critic Writer you have been looking for. Please get in touch via my contacts page, or email me directly tinthesaharah@gmail.com.

‘Aftershock’ can be found on Apple Podcasts & Spotify or from wherever you get your podcasts from.

For further Tea in the Sahara reviews please check out my other podcast & audio-book reviews. Until the next time podcast people, cheers Kev.

Aftershock- podcast review

Aftershock- podcast review

Hello podcast lovers, this week lets shake things up like a loose can of soda with my review of the awesome ‘Aftershock’ (pun intended!) However before we jump in with both boots on let me quickly give a shout out to Imran over at Great Pods for Introducing me to this weeks podcast review.

Imran, the creative engine behind Great Pods are absolutely crushing it as a platform for pioneering, professional, podcast critics helping the listener to find your first or next podcast to listen too. Imran reached out to me about a month or so back, and it appears we read from the same hymn sheet when it comes to podcasts, the podcasting industry, and exactly how exciting this niche space is going to get.

If you are a podcast freak like me, constantly looking for the next best podcast to listen too definitely check Great Pods website for indie reviews on every imaginable podcast genre!

Great Pods, Tea in the Sahara salutes you!

Man alive why didn’t I listen to this podcast earlier!

If you are looking for a podcast packed with zing, intensity, stunning audio, and a cocktail of emotions riding on the pulse of environmental events, then Aftershock should definitely be the next scripted podcast you must listen to.

Aftershock was recorded locally at actors homes in multiple locations against a backdrop of a global pandemic, directed & created by Sarah Wayne Callies (Prison Break), co-written by Patrick Carman, Ben Haber & Sarah Wayne Callies, co-produced by iHeartRadio, with Nomadic Engine & Salmira Productions.

There are a ton of super talented, creative people attached to this podcast so if I do miss anyone out within this review my apologies.

The podcasts hinge point is set around an enormous earthquake within Los Angeles that levels buildings, and creates widespread pandemonium across the cities population. Amongst the chaos is a giant island that seemingly emerges ten miles off the mainland from the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

What is it about islands that signify a touch of drama for the audience? Treasure Island, Lord of the Files, heck even sodding Jurassic Park to name but a few books about islands proving that throughout time Joe public loves a drop of mysticism when it involves an island.

The show darts back & forth through past & present timeline’s like Reservoir Dogs, as the series opens with what appears to be a military interrogation between lead character Cassie (Sarah Wayne Callies) and a starchy jobs-worth Major.
Cassie & Wayne Sharpe (David Harbour) of Stranger Things fame provide the narrative following recent events that led up to our current timeline. We learn that twenty four dead bodies were found on the island, and that the military are now onsite having seized control.

(Remember that choppy timeline?) We then cut to some playful byplay banter between lead character Cassie, and her married lover comfortably lulling the listener into thinking life couldn’t get any better. The moment is shattered as their world literally caves in around them.

The atmospheric sound design created within this podcast is outstanding, dragging the listener through the frantic carnage of what sounds like the end of the world! Sirens, screams, overhead helicopters, underwater scenes, and distant car alarms bring this drama’s soundscape to the extreme forefront as LA is brought crashing to its knees.

Not quite the opening twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan, but equally not Netflix & chill either. Aftershock is an equal blend of pace & character development for those wanting their cake, and enjoy eating it too. A huge amount of credit should be bestowed on Jeff Schmidt for the sound design, and phenomenal contribution to this podcast making ground zero almost a reality for the listener.

The stories emotional backbone is Cassie’s hunt to find her now deceased lover’s teenage daughter McKayla (Tati Gabrielle) last seen sailing, and now stranded on the island. Knowing that Cassie is the ‘other lady’ adopts a modern approach to the usual married couple & missing kid format Hollywood often likes to present. Through her struggles Cassie stumbles upon Wayne, a prison guard from the local clink now with nothing left in his life. Wayne is an interesting character seemingly willing to drop everything and aid Cassie with her quest to get to the island and rescue McKayla.

Wayne has my caution antenna at half mast, and I do hope he is who he claims to be, however I also enjoy a left-field blindsided plot twist that you never see coming (here’s hoping!) Be that as it may, my money is on the island being something engineered by the government, as the military action following the earthquake has all the hallmarks of a national cover up conspiracy. Again here’s hoping!

So to my favourite segment of a review, why should you listen to this podcast? For a start the series totals only ten episodes in length which is just enough for any newbies to submerge yourself into if you are new to fiction based podcasts.

This audio drama deals with some very current issues, raising the importance of our impact on climate change. The message is not delivered in a Sir David Attenborough educational format, more suggestively with references on previous cataclysmic climatic events that have taken place within recent times.

The show is bang on trend for the here & now quoting hand sanitiser, and a possible contagion outbreak for the military to contend with which neatly links back to the previous eighteen months of our own Covid world.

The fabulous depth & emotions displayed through its actors whilst dealing with an earthquake emergency is awesome. Casting David Harbour adds a touch of je ne sais quoi to the show with his recognisable voice adding character, and carefree aloofness into the mix.

A quick shout out should also go to Jeffrey Dean Morgan for killing the staunch Navy Captain character Mark Dover too a tee. Slipping into the arrogant “wheres my coffee” & “drop down and give me twenty” military type with ease.

I Mentioned earlier that I was impressed with the progressive idea of Cassie’s character being the mistress, not Laurence’s wife. Flipping the lead heroine on its head, and firmly giving the two finger salute to the status quo; the inner anarchist in me really admires this approach for sure.

The decision to include an inter-racial relationship into the drama adds yet another dynamic to the story line which should be something we see/hear more of within podcasts.

Aftershock is not all education & seriousness it also includes a healthy dose of comedy, proving that even when facing immense danger, and potential harm you can defuse a heart stopping moment with a cheeky throw away comment from David Harbours character Wayne.
Apart from the education on tsunami’s, earthquakes, sailing, and kayaking techniques I even managed to learn what a go-bag was. So cheers Aftershock for giving my nearest & dearest Christmas present ideas for 2021.

All of the good stuff does not mean that the show is completely showered in gold. In my unique opinion although the show moves in parts with blistering pace, at times it feels like we learn nothing about the island and why it suddenly popped up in the first place.
Slight critique I know, and I can appreciate that Sarah Wayne Callies is probably building the ‘how’ bit into the end of this current series for a grand finale. And I guess depending how successful the show is will look to potentially further develop the ‘why’ part into season two.

Final thoughts from me – now I am not sure if this is Sarah Wayne Callies first crack at writing, directing, and starring within a podcast or not? Personally speaking she definitely added another string to her bow, and I look forward to series two of Aftershock, or any other audio dramas that she might be linked with.

‘Aftershock’ can be found on Apple Podcasts & Spotify or from wherever you get your podcasts from. If you are a writer/creator looking to release your podcast and require a bespoke review ahead of your podcasts release date feel free to get in touch via my contacts page.

As you can see my reviews are not machine box pressed, and I do not shy away from giving my own opinion; if that approach is your bag, then maybe (just maybe) I am your guy for your podcasts grand premier.

For further Tea in the Sahara reviews ‘any other business’ please do check out my other podcast & audio-book reviews cheers Kev.

The Poison Throne – audiobook review

The Poison Throne – audiobook review

Hello guys with this weeks particular Tea in the Sahara review hits a small indie reviewing milestone of twenty reviews (small fanfare please!) Before I dive into my latest review I would quickly like to thank all of those who have supported me throughout this journey so far.

It goes without saying my friends & family who continue to inspire me by keeping me both sane & humble. To the new set of pals & talented writer’s that I have met along my own ‘Scott across the Arctic’ writing quest I would like to show my appreciation to you for welcoming me into the fold. Cheers!

With this weeks review we switch things up, dip the clutch, and return to the sandy cut-throat oasis city of Tumanbay with their latest audiobook instalment ‘The Poison Throne’ written by the incredible writing team Walker Dryden, published by Orion.

Naturally I will be reviewing the audiobook version of this novel released on Audible, however it can also be found in soft/hardback, and Kindle formats if any of those options is your jam.

This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to writing a review of some of John’s previous works. I have been fortunate enough to have reviewed a few of John Scott Dryden’s other work, including the first novel within the Tumanbay cannon ‘The City of a Thousand Faces’ which is definitely worth checking out for a much more rounded picture of the Tumanbay landscape.

For those not so acquainted with the grand city of Tumanbay where this continuation novel is set lets take stock. The theme of the novels is loosely based on the Mamluk slave dynasty of ancient Egypt. Or if you’d like my simplified version in my mind Tumanbay is a hybrid of a the 1990’s video game Prince of Persia, with all the seediness of Jabba the Hutt’s Palace!

Since the sultans of this particular dynasty were themselves earlier slaves, or the sons of former slaves, the Mamluk dynasty became to be known as the slave dynasty.

There’s a city far way…
My parents often spoke of it as if it had always been there and always would be…
I had seen it in paintings, I had read about it in stories, the richest, most powerful city on earth the centre of everything.
It drew people from every corner of the empire and beyond, hungry for wealth and power, or in some cases, more wealth and more power. They were dazzled by its brightness…Tumanbay!

Returning to this series with ‘The Poison Throne’ offers another glorious deep dive into the magical world of Tumanbay and it’s new ruthless owners. But what is instore for its inhabitants under Mya’s rule?

I had almost forgotten how pivotal this second book was within the Tumanbay timeline. Not quite an Easter egg hunt, however events which take place in this chapter within the series will surface at the finale stages of the story.

I will keep schtum and let you work this out for yourselves! Naturally audiobooks offer a different, granular version that books offer over podcasts which adds more elements to the history of Tumanbay.

Once the most magnificent city on earth now it’s previous empire lies in ruins. The chronology timeline for this second instalment feels roughly to be nine months after the closing events of the previous book.

A closing chapter within the Tumanbay legacy which ended with the execution of its former Sultan Al-Ghuri. Opium addict Madu replaces his uncle as a puppet Sultan conjuring an illusion that all is well within the kingdom.

The mysteries Mya and her legions of black guard soliders march into Tumanbay seizing power beginning the process any new dictatorship performs, eradicate the old regime and rewrite it’s own narrative.

Within the stripping out, and pillaging of the previous empire we are introduced to some new Tumanbay talent like the Inquisitor Barakat. A ruthless hatchet man hiding behind his unquestionable faith, and allegiance to queen Mya who reminded me of the snake Kaa from Jungle Book.

It is Barakat’s responsibility to root out heretics within the city, a job he seems to gleefully enjoy too much. And like an oil warning light coming on in your car in the middle of winter, you should be wary of Barakat.

With the changes in senior management gone are the buzzing markets, and humdrum of the city only to be replaced with curfews, patrols, and eerie silence across this once thriving city of commerce.

Life in Tumanbay under its new ownership is a bleak, shadow of its former self which now has all the hallmarks of a 20th century Communist state in full purge effect!

Don’t worry if you were a fan of the previous Tumanbay cast all of the likely suspects are back including Gregor, crafty Cadali, and general Qulan who is still wonderfully defiant as ever. Manel another character favourite of mine returns as a rebel fighter cross between Lara Croft & Princess Leia which was quite cool to follow.

I really enjoyed the recap and detailed explanation for what happened to the character simply called ‘Boy’ from the first series. The lack of an in-depth explanation of what became of him within the podcast always left me wondering where did he disappear too. Of course John & Mike have this this covered within the audiobook version satisfying my own very niche curiosity.

In my opinion stand out moments included the triumphant 36 minute battle led by general Qulan and his rabble of slaves against the hordes of Mya’s armies blow-for-blow account was exhilarating. The Stanley Kubrick Spartacus styled slave uprising, and overthrowing of their captors whilst repairing a dam to halt an outbreak of plague was captivating to listen to.

The narration changes from the accomplished Clare Corbett to Peter Polycarpou for another masterclass in delivering multiple accents of slaves, sultan’s, and Cadali with ease. If this is the audiobook format of using different voice actors every novel then I am excited to see/hear who will be rocking the mike to narrate the third instalment.

I especially enjoyed being entertained by Peter’s vocal performance as the Opium addict puppet Sultan Madu who sounded like a stoned Keith Richards. Peters accent for Gregor making him sound slightly like Sir Michael Caine was hilarious in parts; I won’t use the blow your doors off metaphor don’t worry!

Okay so I am a massive fan of the Tumanbay podcast, and it’s audiobooks as you can probably tell. The in-depth writing partnership of Walker Dryden continues to take me on a rollercoaster of emotions, much like the final scene acted by Bob Hoskins in the cult classic film ‘The Long Good Friday’.

That specific scene where Bob’s character is driven away by the IRA to meet his maker before the credits roll (remember that?)
Well that range of emotions expressed visually by Hoskins which you witness him go through – surprise, denial, frustration, anger, and finally realisation is the exact same journey this audiobook took me on. That journey could also be yours if you choose to download the audiobook!

The overall writing lends a certain patina to the hallowed city of Tumanbay which I thoroughly enjoyed listening to; bravo!

Just like a Swiss army knife ‘The Poison Throne’ really has everything tucked away ready to unfold for you the willing listener. This audiobook is absolutely dynamite, and adopts a very non-linear writing which will appeal to those who know the world is far from PG rated.

So after reading this review of ‘The Poison Throne’ I really hope you are contemplating having your podcast reviewed by Tea in the Sahara. As you can see my reviews are not written in a cookie-cutter uniformed style as plenty of work goes on in the background with every review delivered; which I really hope you the reader appreciates.

So people if you have enjoyed this particular review, or any of my others please do consider doing a few kind things to help me grow my website. Please consider leaving a small comment in the comments section below each review, and whilst there why not like the review (it all helps!)

These simple actions on your behalf really go a long way to help promote what I love to do, collaborate with talented writers, and hopefully write an EPIC review, or two along the way. Well that’s the cunning plan anyway.

You can reach me via my contacts page.

Before I sign off one more thing, if you feel there is a podcast out there that needs a plug please do let me know by getting in touch. For further Tea in the Sahara reviews & tomfoolery please check out my other reviews. Until next time folks cheers Kev!

The Cellar Letters – podcast review

The Cellar Letters – podcast review

As we glide into summer even here in Blighty we’ve been blessed with a rare appearance of that elusive fireball in the sky, the rest of the world likes to call the sun! This sadly is where the charming anecdotes end as this week as we go dark, and a touch creepy with the immersive horror podcast ‘The Cellar Letters’ created by long term pals Jamie Petronis & Jay Sayers. I would also like to thank the lads for bringing this podcast to my attention, and for allowing me the chance to look under its bonnet & kick the tyres. Shout out to Jamie for the introduction (cheers fella!) 

Both chaps write & provide voices within this stripped back indie podcast, designed with a ‘found footage’ sound production that I personally liken to what ‘The Blair Witch Project’ would sound like if it were made into a 2021 podcast. For me the sound of this podcast feels like you are within a ‘first person shooter’ style video game. Right there in the middle of the action!

The guys make no bones about being green to podcasting citing the awesome ‘Magnus Archives’ & ‘The Black Tapes’ as big parts of their inspiration for their fledgling audio drama.  Jamie came up with the initial concept for the podcast, and Jay came on board having no idea what an audio drama was!

The chaps train of inspiration also calls in at Haunting of Hill House, Paranormal Activity, and Cabin in the Woods. I will also include into that mix of artistry Sam Rami’s Evil Dead for a touch of thrills & laughs quirky horror. So what I’m hoping to do for you readers is paint a visual image of the personal inspirations of Jamie & Jay’s podcast (he hopes!)

The plot for The Cellar Letters really is quite a straight forward scripted horror audio drama, however don’t let that detract from what is a refreshingly distinctive podcast concept. Two pals, and one dog relocate to Maine in a bid to start out new with a clean slate. Nate voiced by Jamie Petronis rents a big old house for the guys to setup shop and begin their fresh start.

To fill in time, and jump on the ever growing trend of people making random podcasts Nate decides to create his own documentary style podcast to capture current events. Proving the need to decompress at a time of anxiety, and unlock a creative flow. Well I thought that statement sounded quite articulated even if no one else does.

Through these podcast recordings is where this podcast differs from others. With it’s raw style of recording it allows the show to wire the listener into each episode. It is also through these recordings that Nate begins to hear strange knocking noises coming from their abodes basement; why does creepy knocking always start in either a basement or attic?  

Sidenote – friendly advice time guys! Enjoy this podcast however you like to listen to podcasts, however in my opinion to truly appreciate the full immersive experience of this audio drama I highly recommend listening through headphones as it just sounds mega. I cannot stress how jumpy the horror is within this podcast. Cliche doors banging, and ghostly voices really gets the adrenaline coursing through your veins just like four double vodka Red Bulls, only without the alcohol, hangover, and caffeine overload!

Back to the drama and Nate investigates said knocking and discovers a room within the basement which holds filing cabinets filled with scores of creepy letters. If Nate is the straight no nonsense part of the double act Steve (Jay Sayers) is definitely the joker in the pack. I like to think of them both as a modern day Riggs & Murtaugh style pairing.

After the friends personal private eye investigation Steve concludes that the houses landlord Jim, or Jim the reaper as Steve prefers to call him is behind the creepy basement letters. Steve’s addition to the podcast lends a touch of comedy to the show making it less dark and more Scooby-Doo in parts.

To visualise Steve would be to think of the most annoyingly upbeat friend you have, the type of person you like as a pal, but can only be taken in small doses before you feel drained; but in a totally harmless lovable way.

The  gruesome letters found within the basement is not the only theme running throughout the show. As the podcast progresses what becomes clear is Nate is clearly escaping from an event from his past which involves his ex-girlfriend walking out on him. This is the real motivation & driver for Nate moving to the East Coast adding backstory, context, and dimension to this audio drama.

I know, I know you are probably thinking why have I enjoyed this podcast, and who is it for? Well I initially listened to this audio drama, and blasted through five episodes without even noticing; which is rare for me and an indie podcast. I found myself absorbed within the stripped back no nonsense nature of the show. The no frills, no theme music, no endless credit listings at the end of each episode quite appealing to my inner minimalistic character.

I lmao at the NYE episode (ep.5) where the lads get tanked up and attempt to create a retro beatbox about Jim the reaper. The scene was pure comedy gold, and I would love to know if the writing of that scene was largely influenced by Jay…

Intentionally, or non intentionally I enjoyed the ingenious acting from Jamie & Jay as they slightly lose their minds desperately trying to understand what is going on. Myself being a nuance freak I found the way in which scary, jumpy scenes were delivered was nothing short of brilliant. The strange, lighthouse keeper hysteria created by our two pals as they descend into madness was excellently executed.

What makes the show is the chemistry between our two main characters. This is something that is not easy to re-enact, if you are not already best of buddies. Both chaps are super talented, with Jamie (Nate) coming from an acting background, and Jay (Steve) having worked at Disney, which does not surprise me!

My only minor criticism is that lack of divider when a episode ends, and the next episode begins means there is no real marker other than the beep of Nate’s phone/voice recorder. This is just a personal preference thing, and probably my personal OCD working overtime so feel free to take that statement with a pinch of salt lads.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this review of ‘The Cellar Letters’ which can be found on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you grab your podcasts from. Albeit podcast novices Jamie & Jay have made a cracking podcast here that needs recognition. If you are looking for a different podcast offering some horror mixed with hilarious banter, and clever plot twists you should consider giving this podcast a shot! The guys are doing a great job of carving out their own niche.

To coin a phrase by the late great David Bowie “never play to the gallery” and the chaps behind The Cellar Letters are certainly in no danger of doing that!

If you want to find out more about the guys and The Cellar Letters, head on over to their website www.thecellarletters.com for more info about the show. Whilst there you should positively check out their merch store on Redbubble for some ultra stunning podcast art by Jess Syratt. Let’s get on board with indie podcasters and show some support by rating & reviewing!

A while back someone commented on a review that I did for QCODES Soft Voice saying that the podcast wasn’t their typical jam, however after reading my review they tuned in, and really enjoyed it; this is the reason why I blog. Bringing you guys podcasts that you might not normally entertain. This is the reason why I write reviews.

So after reading this review ,are you considering having your podcast reviewed by Tea in the Sahara? If so you can reach me via my contacts page. If you have enjoyed this particular review, or any of my others please consider doing a few kind things to help me grow my website.

Please consider leaving a small comment in the comments section below each review, and whilst there why not like the review (it all helps!) These simple actions on your behalf really go a long way to help promote what I love to do, collaborate with talented podcast creators & write EPIC reviews. Well that’s the master plan anyway.

Likewise if you feel there is a podcast out there that needs a plug please get in touch. For further Tea in the Sahara reviews & shenanigans please check out the link boxes below. Until next time, cheers, Kev!

Testimonial

Kev, I am so thankful for the incredible review you wrote for our little show. Your passion for them shines through in every line. The genuine passion and enthusiasm you show is the exact reason why creators like us do what we do. I genuinely believe you’re going places with your site and you will be an authority on the medium as it starts growing. Thanks again!

Jamie Petronis Writer/Creator of The Cellar Letters

The Night Post – podcast review

The Night Post – podcast review

A few weeks back I tweeted a call to arms asking the land of Twitter and its inhabitants for an exciting new podcast crying out for an independent review by Tea in the Sahara. Answering that call was the guys behind ‘The Night Post’ produced by Station 103. The Night Post is a weekly supernatural podcast created by an all-LGBT team. An extra special mention goes out to Rae Lundberg for introducing me to this creative new podcast; cheers Rae.

The TNP players are Rae Lundberg, Ethan Thomason, Tyler Anderson, and Elizabeth R.C Lundberg who all take rotational turns in writing & producing the show which airs every Wednesday. Ethan Thomason is also the shows composer creating the soundscape within which the shows exists.

The guys admirably & unashamedly admit that they are novices to the whole podcasting scene. Kicking off season one in the autumn of 2020 amidst a global pandemic, which would have been far from easy. Openly admitting that they bought a cheap microphone, and winged the podcast. This admission alone in my eye shows spirit. That spirit for having a go (a bloody good go at that!) And is all part of the TNP charm; trust me guys you smashed a debut!

The Night Post is set within a fictional shadowy dystopian backdrop of Gilt city where communication in general between Gilt city & the Skelter has gone down the pan. For further clarification The Skelter is technically the entire region of Gilt City and surrounding areas with locals using the term to distinguish what lies beyond the metro area. Or as I interpreted it as the difference between the outskirts of town. For London folk this is how they would comfortably class the rest of the UK!

The idea for the podcast came to the shows writer’s as the US postal service became a hot topic for public debate. You see the TNP team all live within the rural south, where it appears internet speeds and mobile phone coverage is pretty shocking. This lack of modern age communication ability made low-fi ways of communicating i.e. pen & paper more tangible to our podcaster’s. And so with this this initial concept and blueprint, the TNP podcast was outlined.

The podcast does have its own centralised bunch of characters (Nicholas, Milo, Clementine, and Val) written with their own individualised backstory with one of the biggest plots being Milo (Tyler Anderson) who finds himself endlessly searching for his missing husband Ashley. In my opinion it is the actual stories taken from the letters with which our couriers deliver, and the storytelling narration delivered to the audience’s ears that makes the show.

The couriers, or pigeons as they are known at the post act as an integral nocturnal postal service connecting communication dots for many inhabitants of Gilt City. The courier’s are treated with unfair contention by most, and that theme sadly derives from real life experiences our writer’s experience living within the South. That slowness, and reluctance for change within a society where you don’t always fit in seems to be the focal message running within the background of this forward thinking podcast.

You have to remember that this podcast is written and produced by an indie podcasting team with a limited budget. There is a raw production quality to some early episodes where the audio sounds just a little squiffy, especially if there is a scene where an actor raises their voice. To be fair the TNP guys do cover these audio teething problems off during their recent Q&A episode. And this really is me nitpicking as the audio steadily improves becoming flawless as the show progresses. I even had the ‘ding, ding, ding’ guitar theme music created by Ethan Thomason buzzing around in my head days later!

The writing within the show on the other hand is the real star of the podcast. The use of vocabulary and articulated line delivery in certain letter reading scenes is bang on the money. I mean who else wouldn’t want to title an episode ‘Centrifugal Force’ right? I also think that the way the TNP team sets out their stall, and take turns to write & produce the show really makes every storyline quite unique in its own right.

Look out for episode 04. ‘So Below’ which was easily been my favourite episode from the first series. The detailed evocative, almost claustrophobic description Val gives whilst exploring the cities underworld setting was a deeply immersive experience, and was brilliantly written (kudos guys!)

So who could this podcast be for? Well anyone that enjoys a show that is a mish-mash of genres really. TNP is advertised as a supernatural podcast, however it is not your out-and-out ghost story type of paranormal podcast you might be accustomed to. Sure, there are creepy events that take place giving the show a cool edge to it, however I see a deeper meaning behind the podcast. If I may, I see this podcast as more about relationships, some close, some strained, some blossoming (I’m talking about you Val & Clementine!) However at the nexus of TNP is the characters, and how they navigate the relationships they create as the series progresses. Slightly deep meaning answer I know, but hopefully you get the gist?

I really hope you have enjoyed reading this review for ‘The Night Post’ which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or from wherever you grab your podcasts from. If this review strikes a chord with you I highly recommend you head over to the official The Night Post website for more details about the show. Or better still why not rate & review their podcast and perhaps jump on the Patreon bandwagon for early episode releases, and proposed bonus episode’s. Roll on season two guys.

The TNP team are on it like gin & tonic pulling out all the stops to make this fantastic podcast a success, and if you cannot already tell I am personally passionate about indie podcaster’s. So all you podcast reviewers out there let’s get behind this visionary team. TNP are giving out show postcards for every review they receive so what’s not to like about some awesome merch bribery. They have also launched a TNP playlist called Gilt City Radio over on Spotify for eager fans to get their inner TNP groove on.

Plug time! Are you considering having your podcast reviewed by Tea in the Sahara? You can reach me via my contacts page. If you have enjoyed this review please consider doing a combo of kind things by leaving a cheeky comment, and liking this review. These simple actions on your behalf really go a long way to help promote what I love to do, collaborate with talented podcaster’s & write EPIC reviews. Likewise if you feel there is a podcast out there that needs a plug please get in touch. For further Tea in the Sahara reviews & shenanigans please check out the link boxes below. Cheers Kev!

TNP Characters

Nicholas Best – voiced by Ethan Thomason
Milo Cylix-Wilder – voiced by Tyler Anderson
Clementine Keys – voiced by Elizabeth R.C Lundberg
Valencia Torres – voiced by Rae Lundberg

The Battersea Poltergeist bonus episode – podcast review

The Battersea Poltergeist bonus episode – podcast review

Billed as “if you’d made up your mind up..think again” the hit investigative documentary podcast The Battersea Poltergeist returns for one more roll of the dice in the shape of a conclusive bonus episode for its legions of adoring fans.

And like whacking on your favourite, comfortable pair of trainers (Adidas if your interested) we rejoin investigative journalist Danny Robins, flanked by his team of supernatural experts Ciaran O’Keefe and Evelyn Hollow, for one final deep dive into the ongoings at 63 Wycliffe Road.

With this ninth bonus episode Danny & his team pull out all the stops with fan theories, inclusion of a 1990’s TV host superfan, and one final Q&A session with the lady of the hour Shirley Hitchings herself. So strap yourself in one final time Poltergeist fans, lets bonus-up for 57 minutes as Danny does his best to finally close the chapter on the most intriguing ghost story podcast which has gripped millions.

But before we press on, one short pause. If for some reason The Battersea Poltergeist slipped by you, and you are now reading this review scratching your head going “huh?” Here’s some super quick context to help enlighten you.

Journalist Danny Robins & his team of ghost hunters try to unravel a precursory poltergeist case, set within the backdrop of a post war 1950’s Battersea, London. The podcast is centred around a teenage girl, Shirley Hitchings, her family, and a poltergeist called Donald seemingly trapped within the family home. Danny & co try to unearth the truth of this sixty-five year old ghost story aided by the original case notes left by paranormal investigator Harold (Chibs) Chibbett.

Additional side note if you also missed my first review of the The Battersea Poltergeist which I wrote back in mid February, I highly recommend you take a quick peek if not for my own fan theory on the show.

Episode nine kicks off exactly how Danny started the series way back in January with Danny in his garden shed with a box of case notes left by Chibs; a touching anecdote for the show to come full circle in mans little oasis the garden shed. With my review I aim to signpost, in my opinion the most poignant parts of this bonus episode.

Danny begins by reeling off recent fan notions with my favourite being about the River Heathwall. For me this is the most tangible theory for the noises, and house shaking that the Hitchings began to experience back in 1957.

Fun fact, apparently the land on which Wycliffe Road resides was originally located between the River Heathwall and The Thames, creating an island on which Battersea sat. The Heathwall, or Heathwall Ditch/Heathwall Mill Pond was later converted into a sewer in the 1880’s, and apparently through looking at old maps this sewer runs directly under Wycliffe Road. Again the most feasible explanation supporting the noise element conundrum without having a handy time machine to see if the theory stacks up.

As I comfortably sit within team sceptic I appreciated both Evelyn Hollow, and Ciaran O’Keefe’s professional analysis of recent key elements connected with the case. That new necklace story that Shirley regaled about looking in a shop window whilst with her pal, is further ammunition that the whole poltergeist story is exactly that, an elaborate story.

Shirley claimed to have said that she liked a particular necklace that was on display in said shop window, and poof as if by magic it miraculously appears on the table in Wycliffe Road. Although Shirley denies she stole the necklace there is no other way for it to turn up at her house. Now I am not calling Shirley a thief, however if this was true, and Shirley had this gift why didn’t she walk past a Rolls Royce showroom muttering that she liked them big flashy motors!  Again, the only one alive to collaborate this particular tale is Shirley (go team sceptic!)

Evelyn Hollow goes further and provides evidence on this situation by discussing a similar case on fraudster Alma Fielding, who conned people into believing she could make objects vanish, and then reappear. That Alma Fielding account sums up how clever trickery, and slight of hand can easily baffle people.

That’s even before you hear Ciaran O’Keefe’s credence by dropping wisdom bomb’s on Shirley levitating, and sheet pulling episodes. I must say in defense of ‘team believe’ you have to remember this event happened in the 1950’s. No internet, no Google, and also a time when some folk’s thought rock & roll was the devil’s music! So it’s easy for me to conclude my own thoughts that this was an almighty charade, with my very 21st century mindset.

Okay, so I am not going to run through this whole review continuingly pouring scorn over everything Shirley’s claims as blatant conjecture. I genuinely enjoyed this podcast, and the journey it took everyone on was totally absorbing. During one of the listen along together episodes Danny mentioned that it felt like a little club, us all listening in together. That interaction Danny & the BBC offered to the listener within the show made it feel like you were part of his team trying to unlock this grand ghost tale. And this tale about Donald the poltergeist clearly resonates with a really wide audience.

That audience also includes one time 1990’s TV presenter royalty Sarah Greene of Blue Peter & Going Live fame. Sarah mentions how she enjoyed following the podcast during a brief chat about the show, with comparisons drawn between podcast, and mockumentary TV show Ghostwatch (1992). This collation was drawn by some listeners who wrote into Danny concluding that Danny had cooked up the whole podcast story about Shirley & Donald referencing Ghostwatch.

Ghostwatch was a TV series that claimed to have a legitimate ghost house with all the trappings of shadowy goings on beamed live via the tele to the British public. Well this show fooled millions! Being a teenager in the UK in the early nineties I vividly remember that halloween episode of Ghostwatch as the so staged haunted house was set in Northolt, where I grew up. Back then I remember kids jumping on their BMX’s cycling round housing estates hoping to seek out the Ghostwatch house. So this proves I am not impervious to media hype in a time long before the internet.

Danny also speaks with Shirley’s cousin Bill to get his take on events which adds another dimension to the proceedings. To close out this bonus episode Danny puts listeners questions directly to Shirley in a final Q&A round seeing Shirley answer, and defend herself, which I must say she does admirably.

Summary time! Returning to this podcast with last weeks bonus episode aiming to tie up loose ends was a great way to try and draw a line in the sand. I still position myself firmly within the non believer camp as I personally deal in fact, not fiction. I also still strongly believe either Shirley, or one of the Hitchings family has Tesla level creativity when it comes to storytelling. I might get Monstered in the comments for saying that, however I am the first person to flag down a black cab, and head for real street with tales of the supernatural.

But then again without this story we wouldn’t have this wonderful podcast, and lord knows society loves events that cannot be rationally explained. That grey area somewhere in-between the lines that makes us all become armchair detectives is simply within Joe publics DNA.

And like the special buy centre aisle of Aldi, The Battersea Poltergeist always delivered massively on surprises. Those surprises in turn connected with its audience on a bigger scale that possibly even Danny wasn’t expecting. In short you truly never knew what was going to happen next, and that ultimately is this shows winning formula. People who believe in the paranormal really do believe. And those on the other side of the coin (myself included) love debunking those wild theories. Until the next podcast Danny!

Thank you for taking time to read my review of ‘The Battersea Poltergeist’ which I genuinely hope you have enjoyed. All of the episodes can be found naturally on BBC Sounds, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or from wherever you choose to get your podcasts from.

If you are considering having your podcast reviewed by Tea in the Sahara you can reach me via my contacts page. Check out my reviews on Dirt, and Wandering with the Dead, if you are interested to see the level of detail which goes into one my independent reviews.

Hopefully if you have made it this far down the page you have enjoyed my style of writing? I wasn’t going to plug my other reviews en masse, but then again if I am not going to blow my own trumpet who will (review links below!) Cheers Kev.

Real Dictators
Fresh historical podcast
Soft Voice
Where’s your head at?
Wandering With The Dead
Wild West with a dark twist

The Cipher
Webby nominated Sci-fi thriller 
Dirt
Modern day treasure hunt
From Now
Gargantuan intergalactic sci-fi

Real Dictators – podcast review

Real Dictators – podcast review

This week guys we Delve into the depths of history’s darkest past with a podcast that deals with some heavy historical subject matter. Real Dictators is designed to retrace and chronicalise some of the 20th centuries most evil tyrants to have walked the planet. This is done by offering the listener a deep dive (45/50 mins) into the private personal lives of individual dictators charting their birth, rise to power, and subsequent downfall across several individualised chapters.

As you can imagine this podcast deals with some hard hitting disturbing historical events, with acts of total brutality and barbarity against humanity that I can appreciate is not easy listening for every reader. As with all of my reviews I set out my stall, present the facts, coupled with my own personal opinion and allow the reader to form their own decision to engage with the show, or not. I have also tried to remain sympathetic with my review because of its nature and content. However history lovers will certainly enjoy this original, forward thinking approach to podcasting.

Entering its second season ‘Real Dictators’ created by Pascal Hughes of Noiser Podcasts; a UK based podcast production company that pride themselves on specialising within drama storytelling. Our escort, and adept guide/presenter throughout these events is Paul McGann of Dr Who fame, who’s vocal delivery blends harmoniously into the show perfectly. The secret lives discussed during the first few seasons include dictator heavyweights such as Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Adolf Hitler, as well as others not so widely known like Papa Doc, General Tojo, and Colonel Gaddafi.

To try and understand the mechanics of how each dictator brainwashed entire countries, seized power and caused the deaths of millions, the podcast revisits these events using leading professionals within their own fields. The invaluable experience of authors, historians, professors, and first-hand witnesses are used to recount each event as it happened. As the show suggests it gives the audience rare access to peer behind the curtain, like a fly on the wall placing you directly within each tyrants meeting rooms, private quarters, bunkers, and battlefields explained first hand by those who were there.

Where this show differs from other historical podcasts is by setting the scene of how these violent tyrants became the embodiment of evil modern society associated with them. Those pivotal, powderkeg moments from their early formative years that put them on a trajectory of not just changing nations, but also shaping the world around us. Their complete tyrannical metamorphosis is documented throughout each chapter right into adulthood, and latter twilight years. What follows within the series is their totalitarian regimes, political uprises, civil wars, revolution, and calculated takeovers by force, propaganda & fear brought to life by historian’s. The production quality (Joel Duddell), and attention to detail throughout Real Dictators is outstanding, leaving literally no stone unturned.

Having watched the excellent Netflix series ‘The Last Czars’ documenting the ill-fated Romanov royal family I was curious to find out more about Joseph Stalin, and where he personally fitted within the Russian Revolution. The chapters on Stalin within this podcast, regarding his early years helped fill in some of my own inquisitive blanks, adding historical context by unmasking the former Georgian bank robber who would later become the Premier of the Soviet Union.

I must also mention the music & sound design used within this podcast, which is almost like having its own independent character embedded within the show (if that makes sense?) That immersive atmosphere created really puts the listener onsite within those scenes, the sound team are trying to portray. Whether that be a bleak, desolate, crunchy-snowy scene in Siberia, or frantically running through the cobbled streets of Munich bullet’s pinging out overhead, Head of Music Ollie Baines, & Tom Pink (Sound Design) have you covered. The stirring theme music with it’s dark jaunty strings sets the tone for the podcast beautifully, with string arrangement by Dorry Macaulay. If like me you geek out over a good soundtrack make sure you check out the Noiser website for the complete soundtrack used within both seasons so far.

So who is this podcast for? Well obviously anyone that is interested in historical events that’s a given. However that being said, even the hardened history buff can take something new away from this podcast as there are still plenty of surprising revelations to be found within its chapters. Extra kudos for having author, Second World War historian, & YouTuber Mark Felton within the shows ensemble of experts. I already follow Mark over on YouTube, so hearing his comprehensive account on the General Tojo episodes was a real bonus for me. My personal takeaway from this podcast is the truly breathtaking scale, and cruelty of some of the atrocities created by each dictator. The show in essence caused me to pause, and think much wider & broader. The regime’s of Mao, Stalin, and Hitler are gone, however that does not mean the world we live within is completely dictator free; and that is something we as a society should not forgot.

Thank you for taking time to read my review of ‘Real Dictators’ which I genuinely hope you have enjoyed reading. A new episode of Real Dictators is released every Wednesday. In the second series Real Dictators are charting Adolf Hitler’s rise from Austrian third rate painter, to leader of the Third Reich. All episodes of Real Dictators can be found on Spotify, Google, or from wherever you choose to get your podcasts from.

This is my first historical podcast review, and here’s hoping it won’t be my last! This review was challenging for me given I normally tend to review fiction podcasts, so I really hope you can appreciate the extra effort that went into my writing. If you enjoyed my style of reviewing why not check out my previous review of Soft Voice for something a tad lighter on the old content front. If you are looking to have your podcast or audio drama reviewed by Tea in the Sahara, whatever your genre please do get in touch via my contacts page and let’s have a chat! Cheers Kev.

The Cipher pt.2
Pt.2 sci-fi thriller review 
Tumanbay
EPIC Mamluk dynasty 
Wandering With The Dead
Wild West with a dark twist

The Battersea Poltergeist
Ghost hunting extravaganza 
Dirt
Modern day treasure hunt
From Now pt.2
Gargantuan intergalactic sci-fi

Soft Voice – podcast review

Soft Voice – podcast review

Over the last few weeks I have been blessed with reviewing some truly out of this world, A-plus, exciting, independent podcaster’s. 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 podcast of the year & best fiction podcast (fingers crossed QCODE!) With this review of Soft Voice this 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 actor’s co-produce 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 yogurt to buy, how best to sell a flat, through 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 as 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 Note’s 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 helps 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 progress to a nightclub ushered in my own memories of doing that very exact thing which was a welcomed drop of nostalgia. The clever 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 have 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 install for our Lydia as I think things are about to get even more 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 into 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 our 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 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 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 from 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 peaked 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.

Real Dictators
Fresh historical podcast
Tumanbay
EPIC Mamluk dynasty 
Wandering With The Dead
Wild West with a dark twist

The Cipher
Webby nominated Sci-fi thriller 
Dirt
Modern day treasure hunt
From Now
Gargantuan intergalactic sci-fi

Wandering with the Dead – podcast review

Wandering with the Dead – podcast review

The concept of this week’s review started out life back in 2010 from very humble beginnings as a short film that never got off the ground. Fast forward ten years, and like NASA’s aptly named rover Perseverance, that ambition and script concept, switched out from silver screen to audio drama.

‘Wandering With The Dead’ is the brainchild of Cody Signore, an ambitious filmmaker from Boston, USA. The spark and idea, being a menacing western horror thriller set within the lawless Wild West of the 1870’s. A cowboy setting with a much darker edge than often portrayed within mainstream visual entertainment.

For me this audio drama is kinda like what the TV series Westworld would be like if it were given an adult 18 rating! It is also worth pointing out that this podcast admirably covers some challenging themes, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea. So if you are a fan of podcasts that include the following – happiness, unicorns, candyfloss, and rainbows; WWTD might not be your jam. Hopefully if you are on my page you are blessed with an open mind, and will continue in that vein.

Like most indie podcaster’s, WWTD is written, directed, edited, mixed, mastered, all by its creative engine Cody Signore. Oh and if there wasn’t already enough plates spinning, Cody also narrates the show throughout the series. Hats off Mr Signore, and cheers for introducing me to the WWTD universe.

Customary spoiler ALERT if you have not already binged listened to the three episodes of WWTD just yet, as I will be offering up my own thoughts, and opinions on the show within this review. These theories may blow some plot holes in the story, so consider this your fair warning.

The plot outline see’s us follow anti hero Christian Anderson (Brian Stivale) travelling across varying American territories throughout three chapter’s. Brian’s vocal delivery of Christian fits in with this weathered, no nonsense, loner of a character seamlessly. Christian is not your stereotypical ‘man with no name’ bounty hunter as he harbours a shadowy past, including carrying along with him some rather precious cargo. The contents inside Christian’s saddle bag consists of a mans mangled corpse riddled from months of decay. But why is Christian carrying such a foul freight? Or to coin a phrase used throughout the series “what’s in the bag?”

Through Christian’s travels he encounters some disturbing characters, and strangely all of which recognise who the person is within the body bag. In episode one Christian meets a bunch of ruthless cannibals. Mama & the Animals, which if they weren’t cold hearted cannibal killers would be an ultra cool name for a band. Mama (Kim Ramón), and her gang try to drug Christian, and steal his prized corpse. Fortunately for our gunslinger the Mama gang are a couple of gunmen short of a posse, and Christian gains the upper hand and escapes. This is the point where Christian also meets, and saves a young girl Hannah who becomes his almost silent companion in his quest to Missouri.

During episode two Christian stumbles across Daniel, a travelling cameraman for hire, a confidence man using his influence to fulfil an unsettling fetish on his unsuspecting prey. A despicable character brought to life which literally made my skin crawl! Cody’s detailed description of the early camera process techniques is a nice touch reminding us how images were painstaking made in those pioneering days of photography. A shot of Christian & his corpse can be seen below. I Guess they didn’t say “cheese” back in them days then!

A brief character mention should also go out to Elizabeth (Heather Foster) who gives a sterling performance as the inquisitive saloon gal Christian is introduced to within chapter three’s bar scene. I loved the way she phrased her lines in that wonderful Deep South drawl.

The shows timeline buffer’s about like Tarantino’s movie Pulp Fiction as we move back & forth from past & present keeping the audience firmly on its toes. As the series progresses we learn more about Christian’s humanity as he mentions that he, himself has young children, and in chapter two we establish that sadly like most uneducated people of that era Christian cannot read. These small clever refinements included within the writing help the listener build, and form a more human picture of Christian. Perhaps he might not be the initial monster we all had him pegged out to be (just maybe).

As we follow Christian’s epic pilgrimage the descriptive writing, and portrayal of landscape, terrain, surroundings, and topography is splendidly brought to life. For example if said scene features weather which is cold, and desolate the listener gets a window seat into that extreme environment. If the mercury suddenly soars and the settings change to stifling heat, the listener gets sunburnt (it’s that good!)

All of this before I begin to mention how trailblazing Cody’s writing is within the western world of WWTD. Nuance alert, the level of detail, and distinction delivered within his narration fits this audio drama like a glove! Credit must also go to the amazing Bond-esque, pre-title sequences with every new episode, peppering the podcast with yet more added dimension. The twist and turns within the show definitely keeps the listener guessing.

Let me make a bold statement about the sound design within this show. It truly is the Tesla of sound design! Rain, horse hoofs, crackling campfire, blizzards, honky-tonk piano, stooping vultures, locomotives it has all been encased, and crafted by Cody. The way the background music interlaces within the framework of a scene is super slick. That slickness also allows individual artists to close out an episode with their own unique musical style. My favourite of these tracks is the bluesy, ballsy ‘Stormy Shapes’ by Soldier Story, which reminds me slightly of the opening of ‘Love Spreads’ by The Stone Roses. I digress, the inclusion of all three tracks seems to resonate with the landscape of this audio drama perfectly (tracks listed below).

“Carry me Home” by The Sweeplings
“Stormy Shapes” by Soldier Story
“Beware” by Beware Of Darkness

So who is this podcast for? For any fans of horror & westerns, and keen eyes for details. Fans of the author Stephen King would also enjoy this unrighteous take on the old west. You can tell that Cody has poured his heart into this project to make it work, and real talent always shines through!

I would also like to personally thank Cody for walking me through the voice casting process he adopted whilst casting WWTD in a covid world. This particular process has long been of interest to me. That insight into the mechanic’s of the podcasting world. Script run through, director notes, requests for specific line deliveries was such an eye-opening, and invaluable education for me. Cheers fella.

I really hope you have enjoyed reading this review for ‘Wandering With The Dead’ which is undoubtedly worth checking out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or from wherever you get your podcasts from. Cody is yet another extremely talented independent podcaster that needs more recognition for his perseverance, and unbelievable work. If my review strikes a chord with you I highly recommend you head over to the official WWTD website for more details about the show. Or better still if this review has peaked your interest please rate & review the show in order to spread the good word.

If you are looking for another indie audio drama positively brimming with creative class I highly recommend that you jump on Dirt by the equally talented podcaster Kris Kaiyala. You will thank me.

Are you looking to have your podcast or audio drama reviewed like Cody? Well look no further you’ve unexpectedly stumbled across your perfect partner Tea in the Sahara. Whatever you genre you can reach me via my contacts page.

Hopefully if you have made it this far down the page you have enjoyed my style of writing? If you did why not check out my other reviews, and maybe like and leave me a comment (review links below!) Cheers Kev.

Real Dictators
Fresh historical podcast
Soft Voice
Where’s your head at?
Tumanbay
EPIC Mamluk dynasty

The Cipher
Webby nominated Sci-fi thriller 
Dirt
Modern day treasure hunt
From Now
Gargantuan intergalactic sci-fi

Dirt – an audio drama – podcast review

Dirt – an audio drama – podcast review

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 round 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 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 show narrator Joseph (Kris Kaiyala), a successful Seattle playboy CEO, 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 families 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 us Brits call a zebra crossing whilst wearing a fake mustache & 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 setup 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 which holds a key, and 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 soundscaped 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 harbor, 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 immerse 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 reminds 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 within 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 mustache & eyebrows combo either!

I especially enjoyed the heartwarming scene when Joseph meets up with the Flores family having not seen them for many years. The warmth, and harmony written within that scene portrays 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, who is this podcast for? Dirt is an intriguing podcast when listened to, it’s 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 installment 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 peaked 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 whilst you are there check out my recent guide page to help with ideas on what I might need for your review cheers Kev.

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 listed below cheers Kev.

The Battersea Poltergeist Ep.9
Ghostly bonus episode
Real Dictators
Fresh historical podcast
Wandering With The Dead
Wild West with a dark twist

The Cipher
Webby nominated Sci-fi thriller 
The Cipher Pt.2
(Pt.2) of the Sci-fi thriller
From Now
Gargantuan intergalactic sci-fi

From Now – podcast review pt.2

From Now – podcast review pt.2

‘From Now’ sadly finished just about a month ago, however that hasn’t stopped the growing global demand and thirst for this exceptional juggernaut of a podcast no, no! My original review of the show a month back still stands as one of the most visited reviews that I have written which is the true testament of the quality of this show. If you haven’t already checked out my previous review of the podcast I highly recommend to check it out before we dip into this review (pt.2) where I will pick up from ep.4 onwards.

From Now, written and created by Rhys Wakefield & William Day Frank, starring & executively produced by Scottish actors Richard Madden (playing Edward Fitz) most famous for the TV series ‘Bodyguard’ and being mooted as the next James Bond, star alongside veteran theatre, television, & film heavyweight Brian Cox who plays Hunter Fitz.

Australian Rhys Wakefield of ‘The Purge’ also directs the show, and spoiler ALERT if you have not already binged listened to the whole series just yet, as I will be offering up my own thoughts, and opinions on the show within this review.

We pick up my review following the heated scene where Edward almost strangles his elderly brother Hunter to death. Hunter recovers, and recalls a dream that may just hold the only clue the twin brothers have to the 35 year mystery of the USS Hope. We also sadly learn how Hunter was beaten by his parents, and the brutal emptiness he felt in the aftermath of Eddie’s disappearance. Back to that dream/hunch which amounts to answers potentially hidden at Eddie’s gravesite now seemingly the only card left to play.

Meanwhile vintage meteor space debris  crashes out of the sky all around Arizona causing FBI agent Elisa Watkins (Betty Gabriel) to return, and link up with our brothers alongside android nurse Helen (Erin Moriarty) and exit stage-left in a flying car to destination Eddie’s cemetery. Hunters health at this point is a constant worry, and there are grave concerns that he might not make the mission.

‘The Southern Light’s’ episode connects a ton of dots, and is the biggest “ah ha” episode as we hear the inflight recordings of the USS Hope, which is an absolutely harrowing scene to listen to. If you can visualise the terror, and claustrophobic final scenes from the movie Alien that’s how this scene left me. The maiden voyage and takeoff went butterly smooth, until the spacecraft appears to fly into something and all of the USS Hope’s crew, except Edward are mercilessly sucked and grimly fused alive into the ships walls. For the crew of the USS Hope barely twenty minutes had gone by, but in reality as the spaceship re-enters the earth’s atmosphere they have been gone for thirty-five Years!

The Russian Federation try to blast our guys out of the sky enroute to the cemetery. Queue a standoff where Eddie freezes time like Neo from the Matrix allowing our heroes to escape. Our motley crew arrive at the cemetery with the mystery lying within Eddie’s headstone in the shape of a drive with the black box recording on of the events played out on the Hope. This exonerates lieutenant Edward Fitz as the killer of Hope’s crew (phew!) Elisa’s FBI partner turns up and is a grass selling them out to the Russian Federation. Nurse Helen gets shot up, and our gang are captured by the underground resistance; talk about frying pan to fire scenario!

The resistance literally live underground like The Wombles, being that they are miners who mine the green power source that currently powers everything above them in our dystopian future. The leader of the resistance agrees to help Eddie & co. return to the site of the USS Hope via an underground railway system of mine carts. When I heard this part the kid in me could not stop thinking about a similar scene from Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom!

The camaraderie slightly warms between our siblings as Hunter shares the reasons why the planet is dying due to man’s  requirements for power like a weapons grade industrial revolution. It now rains and snows in the state of Arizona because of mankind’s lust for ways of powering the planets sprawling urban jungle. Again, I like the social environmental awareness of what could happen to our planet if we allow ourselves to not be accountable for our actions.

Fear not, we are now on the homeward stretch people, don’t worry. Our team pop up on the USS Hope, and it appears battlefield lines have been drawn up between the Americans & The Russian Federation. Hunter plays the black box recording from nurse Helen to the population thus letting the world know about what really happened to the Hope’s mission. The Russian’s on the other hand plan to fly USS Hope back through the wormhole window to complete its original mission.

Edward again uses his insane alien DNA powers to freeze time on the spot allowing enough time for Hunter to say some goodbyes and fly the ship directly into the wormhole. In the cockpit Hunter talks us through what appears to be five minutes of flight time within the wormhole before re-entering the earth’s atmosphere (this seem familiar?) Podcasting sound effect guys must love using radio static to ramp up the suspense as ground control ask Hunter to identify himself over the radio. Above the white noise and static Hunter’s reply is “I’m American, where am I? When am I?” Has Hunter returned at the same point he left at, or has he travelled forward thirty-five years into the future just as Eddie did? World-class ending as Hunter’s voice fades and the credits begin to roll. Thank you QCODE.

My thoughts for the future? Without using the USS Hope to travel forward in time I will dispense my ideas on the show (see what I did there?) From Now has all the hallmarks of a HBO series for certain, and I know my followers are probably saying to themselves “Kev says this weekly!” However such is the quality of the writing within this podcast it could easily transverse into a film, or TV series; that’s all I’m going to say.

In my original review I highlighted the two main characters Hunter & Eddie Fitz who are acted out fantastically. However I would also like to shine the spotlight onto Betty Gabriel who plays FBI agent Elisa Watkins. As the show opens up and progresses I really enjoyed the development of Elisa’s character, and her own personal attachment to the Hope’s ill fated mission. Moving into a second season, which we all want to see for certain, I personally would love to see how the writers execute the arch from the first series into the second. When you write a show this good the expectations settings for a positive follow up will no doubt be skyscraper high (no pressure guys!)

I really hope you have enjoyed reading this continuation review for ‘From Now’ which is worth checking out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or from wherever you get your podcasts from. I know that the good people of QCODE have some imminent podcasts about to drop which will no doubt be class, so keep your ears peeled people.

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 listed below cheers Kev.

The Battersea Poltergeist Ep.9
Ghostly bonus episode
Real Dictators
Fresh historical podcast
Wandering With The Dead
Wild West with a dark twist

The Cipher
Webby nominated Sci-fi thriller 
The Cipher Pt.2
(Pt.2) Webby nominated Sci-fi thriller
From Now
Gargantuan intergalactic sci-fi

The Battersea Poltergeist – podcast review

The Battersea Poltergeist – podcast review

This week guys I have a very different podcast review for you to immerse yourself into, in the shape and guise of The Battersea Poltergeist which is a part investigative documentary/part enigmatic drama. A show which includes a uniquely interactive opportunity for the listener to peer through the furnace door and share their possible theories, sentiments, and potential thoughts on the podcasts case; but more on that later.

This show is based on the book ‘The Poltergeist Prince of London’ written by James Clark & Shirley Hitchings. The Battersea Poltergeist podcast is written & presented by Danny Robins, produced by Bafflegab Productions for BBC Radio 4. Bafflegab already have a honourable roll-call of podcasts being the guys behind the sinister podcast production of the 1970’s TV series ‘Children Of The Stones’ which is absolutely worth checking out if you remember the children’s show and fancy a retro reminisce.

Oh and as always spoiler ALERT. Apologies if you haven’t started to listen to the The Battersea Poltergeist just yet, there are some spoilers blown ahead in my review.

Journalist Danny Robins & his team of ghost hunters try to unravel a precursory poltergeist case, set within the backdrop of a post war 1950’s Battersea, London. Centred around a teenage girl, Shirley Hitchings (Dafne Keen), her family, and a poltergeist seemingly trapped within the family home. The podcast cleverly darts back & forth from 1956 to the present day, providing the listener context as Danny tries to unearth the truth of this sixty-five year old ghost story. Aided by the original case notes left by paranormal investigator Harold (Chibs) Chibbett voiced by Toby Jones.

The story goes, that Shirley Hitchings discovered a large, ornate silver key on her pillow which does not fit any lock within the house. The strange key goes missing, and the residents of 63 Wycliffe Rd start to witness unwelcomed banging in the loft which cannot be rationally explained. The banging ramps up, and out of frustration the Hitchings family nickname the supposed source of all the racket Donald. Harold (Chibs) Chibbett, a tax inspector by day, and paranormal investigator by night sets about helping the Hitchings try and solve the mystery of why their home is potentially haunted by a poltergeist. And also ironically proving that the taxman is still after you, even if you are a ghost!

Back to the present day, where Danny & his team armed with 21st century technology try to use modern methods previously unavailable in 1956 to try and solve the case. The 3D method of virtually mapping the Hitchings home so that Danny can visually immerse himself into the Hitchings shoes, like he had his own Delorean time machine was insane, and I would have totally loved to have seen it!

The families unfortunate Fred Karno circus circumstance gets a mighty upgrade from noises to flying objects, and Donald communicating with them through a sequence of knocking sounds. The press rock up and ratchet up the tension, as there are rumours of Shirley levitating, which is corroborated when our 2021 journalist Danny visit’s the sole remaining member of the Hitchings family, Shirley now in her eighties.

Episode 4, and back in 1956 the Hitchings family finally lose it and agree to allow a chap called Harry Hanks to hold an underground seance to hopefully rid Shirley & her family of their unwanted spectre Donald. Photographic evidence of that very seance is shown below with Harry Hanks in the middle, and Shirley to his right. Harry (David Troughton) in my mind is your typical situational, charlatan praying on desperate people in order to make a quick pound note.

So at four episodes in it’s my turn to play DI Bergerac and offer up my own thoughts on the podcast, including my stance on the poltergeist plot the show is based on. Starting with the podcast I really like the idea of an investigative journalist revisiting a super old case armed with modern technology. There’s something quite exciting about listening into Danny and his team as they try to piece together the different elements of the puzzle both from a sceptic, and believer standpoint.

Using new methods to try and debunk theories like the VI recreation scene, and getting insight into modern exorcism puts a 2021 detective spin on the series which, for those like myself who enjoy playing detective will love. The production of the podcast is also on the money with some scenes feeling claustrophobic only for the silence to be broken by a large bang or scream to make the listener jump out of their skin!

I especially enjoyed the case update episode inviting joe public to email in their own theories about the show which is a bold, engaging form of interaction between podcast and it’s audience.

My theory on the whole haunting, and poltergeist piece is simple. My Grandad used to say “don’t worry about the dead, it’s the living you need to watch out for!” And there is an element of truth within that statement. I think both investigations, past & present have focused on proving what is not there, and in so discounting the obvious. The Hitchings family themselves.

In my opinion I believe that the poltergeist was engineered by the Hitchings family with each playing their own part within the deception. Perhaps the hoax went too far when the press got involved, but my money is on the family, or an individual family member creating the ruse independently. Listening to the show money doesn’t seem readily available within a very full household, and knowing that the country was financially still on its knees following the war perhaps the story was cooked up to make an extra bob or two out of an elaborate ghost story that perhaps went too far. Maybe I am being too overtly cynical, but if you haven’t noticed one of the authors who wrote the original book linked with this investigation is indeed Shirley Hitchings. Again, my personal opinion so I’ll let you mull that one over for a moment.

Who is this podcast for? This week this is total no-brainer, anyone! Let me bolster that statement out a tad more for you. This podcast would suit anyone that is a fan of the occult, enjoys ghost stories, unsolved mystery cases, and likes the use of modern CSI style detective work to crack a case. The podcast is super engaging, incorporating the listener into the show with their thoughts/hunches during the Q&A episode, which for me was a very astute move.

Final, final thoughts from me, it is also worth highlighting the shows haunting title music co-written by Ben Hillier and the talented Nadine Shah which fits in perfectly with the whole spooky theme the podcast is trying to project.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this podcast review for ‘The Battersea Poltergeist’ podcast which is hands down worth checking out on the BBC Sounds App, Spotify or from wherever you get your podcasts from. The email address is below if you want to email the series with your very own hunch or theory on the show Batterseapoltergeist@bbc.co.uk

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 listed below cheers Kev.

The Battersea Poltergeist Ep.9
Ghostly bonus episode
Real Dictators
Fresh historical podcast
Wandering With The Dead
Wild West with a dark twist

The Cipher
Webby nominated Sci-fi thriller 
Dirt
Modern day treasure hunt
From Now
Gargantuan intergalactic sci-fi

The Cipher – podcast review pt.2

The Cipher – podcast review pt.2

Following on from the huge success of the hit podcast The Cipher’s series finale last week I thought perhaps a follow up review was in order. If this is your first time landing on this page (hello & welcome), for those who haven’t listened to The Cipher podcast yet I would strongly recommend that you check out my previous review from a few weeks back of ‘The Cipher’ which covers off the first five episodes in my own unique way. With this follow on review (pt.2) I will be diving into the series at midway point, so from episode six onwards.

Written & created by Brett Neichin with support writing by Janina Matthewson, produced by Emma Hearn, directed & executively produced by John Scott Dryden. The Cipher is a Goldhawk production commissioned by BBC Sounds, the very same production company who brought us the EPIC Tumanbay’ which I reviewed in 2020.

So are we ready to return to Narnia, perhaps crawl through a washing machine and once again fall down the sci-fi thriller rabbit hole? Oh and as always spoiler ALERT, apologies if you have not already listened to the complete series so far there will be some serious spoilers blown ahead.

We pick up the adventure continuing with that same blistering pace set within the first five episodes as we establish that Sabrina’s dodgy dad Harry worked for a secret collective of scientists called The Stork’s. The Stork’s headed by Ian Sinclair, played God establishing a gene editing program thus mixing a strand of alien DNA with human DNA generating a hybrid resulting in Sabrina (Anya Chalota). Yep, you heard me right our very own anti-hero, and genius Parallax solver is part alien. Moreover Sabrina is not the only hybrid, she also has 30 more siblings (bombshell no 1!)

Sabrina, Benny, & Fergus travel to Iceland to meet up with Sabrina’s online pal Isabella, voiced by Hera Hilmar. Queue a magic carpet ride from Black Beach, Iceland via a derelict airplane/spaceship and our gang end up on a tropical island where bombshell no 2 drops; Sabrina’s mum is not dead! Sabrina’s sketchy mum was originally part of The Stork’s, but setup a splinter group called The Swan’s believing that AI and robotics are the future for humanity, not splicing alien & human DNA. And if that wasn’t enough, a war is apparently imminent between the aliens & mankind.

The island is a front for The Swan’s to operate out of and learn that they are also a dab hand at engineering realistic looking human robots like a next level Lex Fridman. If you read my first review, you will remember that I said that I had a niggling feeling about Benny (Chance Perdomo), which I couldn’t quite put my finger on? Well in episode eight all is explained as our resident super nerd Benny, not only works for Sabrina’s mum, he is a bloody robot! Excellent plot twist which totally blind-sighted me, and I totally enjoyed the “ah ha” plot revealing moment.

Our trio travel to Tokyo to meet with Dr Aoki, voiced by George Takei. If this actors name is not familiar to you, he was the chap who drove the original Starship Enterprise in Star Trek, and is also an active spokesperson for human rights campaigns to boot. Long story short, Dr Aoki was a member of The Stork’s and claims to have a vaccine for the piercing hum noise that the hybrids hear. This hum is a hypnotic noise used by the aliens, which Dr Aoki calls The Blues. Dr Aoki tries to cure Sabrina & Isabella (also a hybrid) as we get a character 180 about-turn, as the good Dr Aoki is ruthlessly murdered by Isabella who turns out is not as shy as on first impressions, and rocks venom tipped razor blade fingernails. Who knew Revlon made such a shade!

In the ensuing fracas, Fergus (Samuel Adewunmi) is mortally wounded and sadly dies. The creativeness with the way this scene was written and poignantly delivered is true credit to both direction, and the actor’s incredible abilities. Sabrina & Benny evade Isabella & the deceitful Efrat (Olivia Popica) from Arrow and set-up shop in Japan.

The pair decide that if war is coming they will need all the help they can get, and if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. They create their own cipher Parallax calling card to reach out to Sabrina’s hybrid siblings for help in the fight. The final scene is genius as the pair finally receive a phone call from Elkin, one of Sabrina’s siblings who decoded their cryptic message. Sabrina & Benny suggest for the three of them to meet up; “Where are you Elkin?” asks Sabrina, queue a long silent pause… Elkin quietly say’s through the static “I’m not on earth!” Bosh roll the theme music, credits, and whilst you are there pick up my jaw from the floor. Fantastic open way to close out the series’s leaving the audience dangling on an eroding cliff edge wanting more.

My thoughts for the future of the show? Off the bat, 100% there needs to be a series two to further expand on this already amazing scripted storyline. Not to sound like The Cipher hype man, but if someone has not already had the conversation about converting this awesome podcast into what could be an award winning TV series, you should. Take note Netflix, BBC, and Amazon, the writing within The Cipher would easily transition to a successful TV series. Just looking at the amount of people that viewed my initial review I did for the show the interest & demand is certainly there.

Why I like the show? If you haven’t already guessed it I am a big fan of this podcast. For me this is the first fiction podcast which I have come across that causes you to actually think, backtrack, and revisit previous episodes. The show is cleverly littered with Easter eggs like a millennial podcast version of ‘Where’s Wally’ or ‘Where’s Waldo’ if you live in the States. The smart inclusion of popular cultural references (Tinder, Reddit, Tiktok) coupled with geographical locations, and nuances is an ingenious contemporary approach to podcasting. It’s almost pioneering in terms of where the writing takes the listener. To enjoy this podcast I personally find you don’t have to be a fan of sci-fi drama, however an inquisitive open mind will serve you well. Even I did not know what ‘IRL’ meant to millennials, so it goes to show you can teach old dogs new tricks!

I also have somewhat of a scoop for you as I write this review. Through valuable sources I have learnt that The Cipher’s main character Sabrina was based on a real life person called Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski an American theoretical physicist dubbed the next Einstein. Sabrina’s Wikipedia page makes for very interesting reading, and you can clearly draw parallels from where the inspiration came from for the shows leading lady.

Lastly I would also like to thank the show’s writer Brett Neichin & director John Scott Dryden for personally writing to me to thank me for my previous review. Apparently within the writing of my review I managed to capture the spirit of The Cipher. Well, I tried my best chaps!

I hope you have enjoyed reading my continuation review of ‘The Cipher’ which is 100% worth checking out naturally on BBC Sounds and Spotify, or wherever you choose to get your podcasts from. Hopefully you have enjoyed this review. If so, please do check out my other reviews including the interstellar From Now’ or perhaps the indie comedy podcast Mike Prowse Solo Travel’ which are both amazing!

Are you looking to have your podcast or audio drama reviewed by Tea in the Sahara? Well you’ve found your perfect partner! Whatever your genre please do get in touch via any of the below methods or through my contacts page. Cheers Kev.

Mike Prowse Solo Travel – podcast review

Mike Prowse Solo Travel – podcast review

Hello fellow podcast enthusiasts and welcome to my very first stab at reviewing a podcast brought to my attention by the chaps who created the ‘Mike Prowse Solo Travel’ comedy podcast. The guys approached me a while back about potentially doing a write-up of their work off the back of them reading some of my prior work. You see readers dreams really can come true!

Frankly speaking this is a significant milestone for Tea in the Sahara having only set-up shop less than a year ago, and during that time switching blogging focus from music to mostly reviewing podcasts, so having someone reach out and express an interest in me reviewing their podcast is very humbling to say the least. Either that or they need as much free press as they can get!

To be crystal clear from the beginning the indie team from ‘Mike Prowse Solo Travel’ wrote to me desiring a carte blanche approach to my review sharing my thoughts good, or bad on their established podcast (very brave lads!) Incidentally the lads also wish to remain anonymous if you were wondering why I haven’t name-checked creator’s & writer’s just yet which I would normally do within one of my reviews.

The scripted comedy ‘Mike Prowse Solo Travel’ podcasts concept is really quite simple, yet originative at the same time. And man-alive a laugh is exactly what we need right now!

So the format is to accompany Mike Prowse, a solo travel expert as he narrates a travel podcast covering locations & multiple obscure genres such as mystery, supernatural, and weirdly space tourism. Think of it as a modern day p*ss take podcast of ITV’s vintage tv show ‘Wish You Were Here’ for those old enough to remember Judith Chalmers and her forever mahogany tan.

Mike Prowse is a fictional travel podcast with a twist, taking in sights & sounds, geographical locations, and cultural nuances from a quintessential dry British sartorial slant. If you check your hygrometer reading that humour is as dry as the Gobi desert. Comedy as we know is subjective right, and this type of sarcastic folly may not appeal to some folks, but certainly works for me as sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, yet the highest form of intelligence said Oscar Wilde.

Mike’s excursions are as far flung as New York, Japan, Vienna, and the historic market town of Bury St Edmunds. The guys created Mike’s character in the shape of those radio correspondents you’d hear in far off places, or newspaper travel experts of yesteryear. The equipment and production techniques used for the podcast are all exactly the same as those correspondents used to give the show that genuine retro feel.

That level of production within the show is matched by the imaginative writing showcasing that the team really have an obscure, unique vision of travel. The fellas decided that there was enough really long podcasts out there, however there didn’t seem to be many if any around that were short, and very tightly scripted. The idea was hatched for Mike Prowse to travel solo so Mike’s voice is the only voice you will hear within episodes lasting about 15 minutes in length.

Since its creation a few years ago the team have built the show steadily, and have a reasonable following within the States which is interesting given this is a very British podcast with very British humour. For the amount of podcasts I listen to I am not afraid to say that I loathe sponsored adverts with a passion. One of the most ingenious ideas I have heard in awhile was for the MPST podcast team to create their own sponsored advert breaks, which are basically a mickey-take of those irritating commercial podcast adverts that rattle on. Clever, clever idea lads why hasn’t someone done this sooner!

So who is this podcast for? If you are someone who appreciates deadpan humour encapsulated within a 15 minute window MPST podcast might just be your bag. I won’t use the phrase Marmite as that’s cliche, however I can see that you’ll either embrace this podcast for all the crazy exploits Mike finds himself in, or you won’t (is that a too simple answer?!)

I hope you have enjoyed reading this podcast review for the ‘Mike Prowse Solo Travel’ podcast which is definitely worth checking out on Apple Podcasts, or from wherever you get your podcasts from. Again I’d like to thank the team at ‘Mike Prowse Solo Travel’ for contacting me, and entrusting me with this this review. Cheers for reaching out fella’s!

Like the ‘Mike Prowse Solo Travel’ podcast are you looking to have your podcast or audio drama reviewed by Tea in the Sahara, whatever your genre please do get in touch via any of the below methods or through my contacts page cheers Kev.

From Now – podcast review

From Now – podcast review

Let’s kick off a brand new year with my intergalactic podcast review of ‘From Now’ completing my own personal hat-trick of reviews from those studio production guys down at QCODE. If you haven’t already, you should definitely check out my other two QCODE podcast evaluations in the shape of the sinister ‘Ghost Tape’ and risque Dirty Diana’ both polar opposite podcasts, yet astounding in their own rights.

‘From Now’ written and created by Rhys Wakefield & William Day Frank, starring & executively produced by Scottish actors Richard Madden (playing Edward Fitz) most famous for the TV series ‘Bodyguard’ and being mooted as the next James Bond, star alongside veteran theatre, television, & film heavyweight Brian Cox who plays Hunter Fitz.

Australian Rhys Wakefield of ‘The Purge’ also directs the show, and apologies spoiler alert if you haven’t already listened to the first three episodes.

A psychology space age thriller set within a dystopian 2060 future with the plot anchored around the returning of a spaceship, the USS (United States Ship) Hope from her ill-fated maiden voyage, somewhat late by exactly thirty-five years to be precise! The mysterious ghost ship returns amidst a media frenzy, and as the crowds gather to watch on the hatch opens and the soul survivor lieutenant Edward Fitz from a seven man expedition steps out. The whole crew aboard the famed vessel have been found dead, and Edward, startled & confused has not aged one day in thirty-five years.

Back on terrafirma Edward’s identical twin brother Hunter Fitz (Brian Cox) now a 65 year old man suffering early stages of onset dementia has been brought to the landing site by the FBI to ascertain, and question where his brother Edward has been for the past 30 years. Could Edward be a clone, and what brought about the demise of the rest of the USS Hopes crew?

Hunter apparently has his own demons to exercise, which have been living within his head (rent free), and like the return of the USS Hope, those demons have also been kept hidden for thirty-five years. And more importantly what part did he have to play with the secretive ‘operation window’? Assisted by Hunter’s android robot helper nurse Helen (Erin Moriarty) the two brothers meet for the first time in an epic showdown with some excellent byplay sibling rivalry on display as both men demand answers.

Let’s back things up for historical landscape context. The USS Hopes primary mission was to formally seek an answer to our global climate change as mankind has nearly poisoned the planet into extinction. NASA deem the only viable option, and escape for mankind is to create a space program using identical twins as astronaut’s to charter an odyssey to seek out a planet called Fader-Seven (guesswork on the spelling) which hopefully holds enough natural resources to sustain life. I must say I like what the writers have done here with the story focusing the mission, and underlying theme on climate change, and what a lack of respect could subsequently do to our planets endgame if not taken seriously.

QCODE production have a fantastic array of ace podcasts, and are equally lucky to have had their payroll blessed with some seriously high calibre acting talent. Brian Cox is a major coup adding much needed depth, and experience to the sadly mentally detoring character Hunter Fitz. Through Brian’s immense acting abilities he really brings to life the inner strength within Hunter in what is his ultimate defiance to not let his condition beat him. Beautifully scripted, and superbly executed.

The other leading character within the show is Edward Fitz voiced by the excellent Richard Madden who certainly knows how to make the needle move with a performance! If Hunter is calm & collected Edward is the opposite being irrational, demanding, and prone to acts of violence. The first scene where the twins meet where Hunter says that he was previously a handsome man is a genius scene. It’s too early to fully understand what, or even who Edward is however Richard Madden plays the former confident hotshot astronaut in a confused & frightened tone balancing like a high-wire trapeze act of intrigue & menace.

Erin Moriarty also needs a quick mention for her portrayal of Hunters assisted helper nurse Helen. The way the two bicker & squabble like a married couple even though one of them is a machine brings a lighter tone to this otherwise dark 2060 future we find our cast set in.

Three episodes in my theory is this, Hunter & NASA have engineered a way for the USS Hope to travel through a self created wormhole ‘operation window’ which through trials was perceived as safe. Something obviously went wrong with the Hope’s mission which leads us to the guilt that is all consuming Hunter. The ‘who done it’ part with why the crew are all dead I haven’t quite figured out yet. Although I’m not ruling out Edward losing his mind and carrying out the macabre act. But is that too obvious? Perhaps the Russian Federation have a secret part to play…

If I am to nitpick (sorry), my only small gripe with the show is that they used actors with very English sounding accents to play the parts of the younger Eddie & Hunter when they move to America to begin their space program. Yet fast forward 30 years, and on Eddie’s return via the USS Hope he strangely has a seriously thick Glaswegian accent. Now I’m no accent specialist, but I’m pretty sure you don’t pick up a Scottish accent in Nevada, or deep space come to think of it.

So who is this podcast for? Again guys another week, and another awesome sci-fi thriller innovatively scripted which really delivers. If like me you like a audio drama with some genuine acting talent on display, and a podcast that keeps you guessing where the plot is heading, look no further. Hit that download button now and take the From Now plunge. You might just thank me!

(Final words I promise!) The visually stunning retro artwork used for the podcast depicts the very essence of the show in a futuristic neon nightclub kinda vibe with the Fitz brothers looking like guest DJs bang in the middle of the shot. QCODE, if you haven’t got this image in mind for some cool looking merch you should consider it.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this podcast review for ‘From Now’ which is definitely worth checking out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts from. (UPDATE!) If you have enjoyed this review you might want to read my continuation review of From Now (pt.2), and the other podcast reviews which I have written (links below).

For any budding podcaster/writers out there that are looking to have your podcast reviewed by Tea in the Sahara, whatever your genre please do get in touch via my contacts page. I would also like to quickly thank everyone for their continued support throughout my reviewing journey. You know who you are! Cheers Kev.

Real Dictators
Fresh historical podcast
Tumanbay
EPIC Mamluk dynasty 
Wandering With The Dead
Wild West with a dark twist

The Cipher
Webby nominated Sci-fi thriller 
Dirt
Modern day treasure hunt
From Now pt.2
Gargantuan intergalactic sci-fi

The Cipher – podcast review

The Cipher – podcast review

Let’s start this review by stating that Santa came a day late on Boxing Day gifting us the first five episodes of the totally addictive podcast ‘The Cipher’ to gorge ourselves on during the festive break. And I for one couldn’t wait to dive into another immersive fiction based podcast drama that was apparently a year in the making.

Written & created by Brett Neichin with support writing by Janina Matthewson, produced by Emma Hearn, directed & executively produced by John Scott Dryden. The Cipher is a Goldhawk Production commissioned by BBC Sounds, the very same production company who brought us the magnificent ‘Tumanbay’ that I reviewed earlier on in the year. Which if you haven’t already listened to, should totally be on your ‘listen to next’ podcast playlist.

The plot moves with serious pace covering multiple geographical locations, so strap yourself in folks for some heavy reviewing pre-context as the writers introduce us to characters galore whilst falling further down the sci-fi thriller rabbit hole. Oh and spoiler warning apologies if you haven’t already listened to the podcast yet.

The Cipher centres around lead protagonist Sabrina, an orphaned 16 year old uber intelligent schoolgirl played by Anya Chalota of Witcher Netflix series fame. I like to think of Sabrina as a switched on millennial safecracker combination of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, & Indiana Jones with bucket loads of sass thrown in for good measures.

Sabrina has a recurring dream of black rain which culminates when she awakes with the words “Kasamar Debon Kouru” which I am probably butchering and no doubt spelling incorrectly. Originally born in Afghanistan, Sabrina now lives in Wolverhampton with her adoptive father Harry a supposedly humble bespoke umbrella salesman; more on Harry later as it seems the dad definitely has something to hide.

We have established that Sabrina has incredible smarts with easily an IQ level far above someone three times her age. With this intellect, and bad insomnia Sabrina solves an impossible online puzzle cipher called the Parallax which no one else across the globe has managed to unlock. The way which Sabrina’s solves the door element of the Parallax puzzle by using Indian takeaway boxes gives you a tiny porthole into the way her brain solves complex problems seamlessly with everyday objects.

With the Parallax unlocked Sabrina unknowingly makes a phone call to an American policeman as the creator of the Parallax scientist Dr Usman has recently been murdered. Our puzzle solver unwittingly gets swept up with a mysterious international agency called Arrow headed up by Efrat, voiced by the talented Olivia Popica. It transpires that the Parallax was used as a recruiting tool by Arrow in order to seek out the world’s best codebreakers to crack the mystery of the deceased scientist. Certainly trumps a recruitment drive by Google for creativity! On her reluctant travels Sabrina is also introduced to an illuminati style group that claim to hold the answers to why/how she became to be orphaned, and the true identity of who her secretive dad really is (hopefully still with me?)

The characters within The Cipher are outstanding with a truly stellar cast of talent on display. You already should have a good handle on Sabrina’s character deftly brought to life by Anya Chalota. The other main character within the show is Benny, an American lad (also 16) who is the second person to defy the odds and crack the enigma grade Parallax puzzle. Benny, played by British/American actor Chance Perdomo does an amazing job of rounding out Benny’s inner geek and introverted nature as the podcast advances.

Sabrina meets Benny within her local bookshop at the beginning of episode one as he tries to impress her with his photographic memory of a book she wants to read titled ‘A Girls Guide To The Galaxy’. Although Benny comes across innocent, there is something that does not quite sit right with me about what his true motives are. Let’s just say it is a niggling feeling that all is not well in Denmark! That said I do like the smart scene between Sabrina & Benny when held captive hold a non verbal conversation using the unique lettering found within the black & white squares of a chessboard (clever bit of writing guys!)

As this is a Goldhawk Production we are reintroduced to some quality actors last heard within Tumanbay in the shape of Nabil Elouhabi as Sabrina’s teacher, and a genius piece of casting of badass Arrow agent Efrat played by Olivia Popica. Another quick mention goes to The Ciphers getaway driver Fergus played by actor/director Samuel Adewunmi who has the whole modern Huggy-Bear (ears to the street vibe) coupled with a soft heart down to a tee.

Early doors into a new podcast I usually like to play Magnum PI and offer up my own thoughts on where the story may take us, however the writers of this particular audio drama have me completely stumped. The story already includes murdered scientists, alien plots, and what appears to be international cloning syndicate thrown into the mix, four episodes in. So my guess is as good as yours as to where it is heading, which is also half the fun!

So who is this podcast for? Well off the bat if you are someone that loves a sci-fi thriller this podcast is a must. But that would be doing the show an injustice as it is much more than that and can reach a much more wider audience. The plot taps into the relevance of modern day technology angling the show slightly towards the internet generation with cultural references such as Uber, Skype, Deepfakes, Reddit, and social media sites like Tiktok, Facebook, with even Justin Bieber getting a nod. The geographical locations the show takes your eardrums on reads like a hipsters passport full of stamps from destinations like Boston, Iceland’s Sólheimasandur, & even London’s trendy Brixton.

So to summarise if you are seeking a fresh exciting podcast that is gripping, yet rich with astounding content produced to a premium quality with a stunning roster of actors, written by writers that clearly have their fingers firmly on the pulse of what is ‘current & fresh’ to kick on with your new year The Cipher could be right up your alley. That and the fact that this podcast was commissioned by BBC Sounds meaning zero annoying adverts, which in my eyes is a massive plus point perfect for any tier of lockdown!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this podcast review for ‘The Cipher’ which is definitely worth checking out naturally on BBC Sounds and Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts from. Someone kindly left me a message to say that they checked out ‘Tumanbay’ off the back of my review of the show. I would like to thank you for all your kind words of support, this is exactly the reason why I blog.

For any budding podcaster/writers out there that are looking to have your audiobook or podcast reviewed by Tea in the Sahara, whatever your genre please do get in touch via any of the below methods or through my contacts page. Happy new year to all and here’s to a better 2021! Cheers Kev.

Real Dictators
Fresh historical podcast
Tumanbay
EPIC Mamluk dynasty 
Wandering With The Dead
Wild West with a dark twist

The Battersea Poltergeist
Ghost hunting extravaganza 
Dirt
Modern day treasure hunt
From Now pt.2
Gargantuan intergalactic sci-fi

Ghost Tape – podcast review

Ghost Tape – podcast review

If like the UK you are hunkered down in another enforced covid lockdown and are looking for a new podcast to get your teeth into, you might just like this next review. Ghost Tape is another excellent immersive audio podcast introduced from those creative types down at QCODE. Those same creative types behind another insanely good podcast Dirty Diana which I reviewed a few months back, which you should also have a ganders at.

The premise of horror audio drama Ghost Tape is centred around it’s lead protagonist Tessa Dixon played by the fantastic Kiersey Clemons, and a mysteriously haunted audiotape said to have been recorded during a massacre in the Vietnam war. QCODE have exceeded my expectations again with a stellar writer Alexandra E Hartman, and heavyweight co-creators Aron Eli Coleite (Netflix Locke & Key) & Nia DaCosta of movie reboot Candyman are more than capable of pushing that creative dark envelope. The show is directed by someone called Malakai, which I assume in that sense is like Madonna and only uses one creative name.

This psychological storyline starts with the recent suspected suicide/murder of Tessa’s grandfather, Byron Dixon. A distinguished military vet, voiced by the actor Bill Duke of vintage Predator movie fame. The podcasts are divided into sessions, and that is expanded on as every episode is set (so far) within a shrink’s office situated within Fort Taylor a Texas military training camp where Tessa is completing her basic training (still with me?)

The mysterious tape in question is said to be possessed by evil spirits of villagers savagely murdered during the Vietnam war some 40+ years ago, upon Tessa listening to the tape, she unwillingly releases the evil spirits. Within Tessa’s possession the tape previously belonged to her late grandfather, who appears to communicate with Tessa via the tape as if stuck between two worlds, and he was indeed a genie trapped within the magic lamp.

Tessa perceives that this individual audiotape has more to do with Byron’s suspicious death and subsequent cover up than the military are willing to let on. So spurned on with anger, fueled by hate of a heroin addicted father Tessa enlists within the US army in the hope of somehow establishing the truth about her grandfather’s untimely demise. Oh, and the reason army recruit Tessa is in the brig (army prison) it’s because her battle buddy private Philips has gone missing casting further suspicions over Tessa’s recent erratic behaviour.

This podcast reminds me slightly of Hellraiser by Clive Barker, and that’s not in the sense of Hellraisers twisted macabre horror you witness from the film, more the similarities, or magnetic pull that the tape has over those who possess it. Once the owner has the tape they won’t let go, and for those who have held it will stop at nothing to retrieve it.

Ghost Tape really is a heavy hitting audio drama at it’s best with Kiersey Clemons who is also an executive producer bringing to life a sassy, ballsy Tessa Dixon that doesn’t take sh*t from anyone, skillfully executed with reckless flamboyance! Tessa’s character is troubled that is for sure, and it is worth reminding listeners that this podcast does tap into some real-life raw subjects such as addiction, suicide, coming out as openly gay, and the horrors & brutality of war. So if you are someone who prefers their podcasts to have a rainbow happy ending twinned with a traditional love story, Ghost Tape might just not be the one for you.

The writing & acting is top notch especially with the scenes between Tessa and the armies Psychiatrist Oscar Martinez, reminding me of that sexually charged scene from Basic Instinct where Sharon Stone’s character is taken into the police station for questioning at the beginning of the movie. And no before your mind wanders, not that specific scene you first thought of, more the tense atmosphere that the directors of that film created within that particular scene. The clever little nuances of a stereotypical office clock on the shrinks wall ticking away as the questioning becomes more stressful, and the deliberate nonchalance, evasiveness from Tessa’s responses towards his line of questioning is wonderfully scripted.

To add some much needed humor to the podcast you should listen out for larger than life performances of Tessa’s grandma (Tessa’s dads side) whose timing, and dry sarcasm add a touch of comedy to help briefly lighten the moment of this otherwise gripping audio drama. I must also mention the sound engineers, and music used within Ghost Tape as the mashup end theme music of a military march blended into what sounds like traditional Vietnamese music is outstanding; hats off to Darren Johnson, an award-winning pianist and composer & his team.

This has been a slightly longer review for a podcast only three episodes old, but there is so much to unpack I didn’t want to write a review and miss anything out. So I will close with me playing detective and give you an early inner critic theory on Ghost Tape that has been kicking around in my head for a while. This might just be me and my overactive mind working overtime, but am I the only person that has picked up that Tessa mentions about being cold quite a bit? Now here is the curve ball, is Tessa already dead and this is some weird ghostly paradox that we find ourselves listening to? Is she already possessed? Don’t call me Kojak just yet, but definitely food for thought.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this podcast review for ‘Ghost Tape’ which is definitely worth checking out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. If you are considering having your podcast reviewed by Tea in the Sahara you can reach me via my contact page. Do check out my reviews on Dirt, and Wandering with the Dead, if you are interested to see the level of detail which goes into one my independent reviews.

Hopefully if you have made it this far down the page you have enjoyed my style of writing? If you did why not check out my other reviews, and maybe like and leave me a comment (review links below!) Cheers Kev.

Real Dictators
Fresh historical podcast
Soft Voice
Where’s your head at?
Wandering With The Dead
Wild West with a dark twist

The Cipher
Webby nominated Sci-fi thriller 
Dirt
Modern day treasure hunt
From Now
Gargantuan intergalactic sci-fi

Family Business – Tamer Hassan – podcast review

Family Business – Tamer Hassan – podcast review

Context is everything right? I first came across British actor Tamer Hassan when he was an up and coming actor in the London drug gangster film ‘Layer Cake’ opposite the next James Bond (Daniel Craig), and also another relatively unknown actor called Tom Hardy (sound familiar?) Tamer then went onto play joint lead in the Nick Love, Costa del Sol classic 80’s film ‘The Business’. Both are excellent films that I highly recommend you watch.

Hopefully for those not familiar with Tamers film work this slice of movie context can at least help you picture the chap I am writing about. If there was a London hardman to be played out in true authentic style Tamer is most certainly your man with this fulltime geezer! Contextual lesson over.

Now in a world of actors & so-called celebrities seemingly jumping on the current podcast phenomenon with the likes of David Tennant, Peter Crouch, and just recently Danny Dyer all making podcasts my interest was peaked when I saw that Tamer had launched his very own. Podcasting is rapidly becoming an overcrowded, confined platform, one which I have to admit I was slightly worried to see Tamer had joined the ranks with his podcast ‘Family Business’ (but how wrong was I!)

Tamer brings his ever charming South East London swagger to a completely unique podcast on Global Player about one of the most important thing in the world, family. He discusses the up’s & downs, highs & lows, tantrums & rucks by opening his personal phone book of celebrity pals & sporting stars, engaging in open conversations trying to bottom out what ‘family’ really means to us. I have said this before but life is definitely not all candyfloss & rainbows so it’s refreshing to hear a podcast conversations about people’s real thoughts about family life (good & bad). Final caveat, this podcast is also not for the fainthearted as there is a sh*t ton of swearing throughout which might not sit too well with shrinking violets.

Tamer has a wonderful way of showcasing a story like your very own naughty, checkered past uncle as he chats to various celebrities about what really makes families tick for a period of about an hour. With three episodes to enjoy so far we are treated to guest conversations with his daughter Belle Hassan, fellow Londoner and film legend Ray Winstone, and if that wasn’t enough for you to pick up your headphones and automatically listen, Tamer also has a chat with the talented Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh.

No question is too awkward, or small as Tamer guides us through questions that we probably wouldn’t even ask our own families. Like “what was I like as a dad?” Conversations that make you laugh uncontrollably, cry, and take pause for thought to think about your own family lives in this crazy 2020 that we find ourselves in. Which I must say is quite a talent to bring to the party as a newbie podcaster.

Not knowing who the first guest Belle Hasan was, coupled with not being an avid follower of Love Island I found their conversation between father & daughter fiery, heartfelt full of love & laughter and completely brutally honest. Which in my mind is how a conversation should be between your nearest and dearest. The conversation between Belle & Tamer, about her younger days, and now Belle being an ambassador for mental awareness encouraging families to speak to each other made my respect for her skyrocket. Their conversations are not all of a sad nature as we all know there are family moments in life that make you almost piss yourself with laughter, and there are plenty of these moments shared between father & daughter.

Tamers conversation with Ray Winstone is an absolute gem to listen to as the two old pals reminisce, catching up on old times like they were in their local boozer, and we the listener are sat at the table opposite them eavesdropping. The two actors discuss early upbringings, their parents, and what role their mums & dads played in their upbringings. Ray’s daughter Jamie makes a fleeting appearance in this all family Zoom call.

I urge you to listen to all of the ‘Family Business’ podcasts, however if you only have time to catch one I would highly recommend you listen to the third episode with Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh who’s insanely jam-packed life makes astonishing listening. And as Tamer says, for anyone interested in the author they are in for a “real fu*king treat!”
Growing up in Leith, Edinburgh on the wrong sides of the tracks this is a first time world exclusive conversation which covers some real life personal tragedies like Irvine’s dad’s illness and the pain that came with his passing, ditching heroine, and the events that led to writing his first legendary novel Trainspotting. Irvine also charts his rather eccentric career choices from kitchen porter, tv repairman, librarian, DJ, and then to bestselling author which is testament to natural ability, and a bit of old lady luck. One interesting titbit that I learned about Irvine was that he lived with some family in Southall, West London, a part of London that I am very familiar with growing up close to.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this podcast review for ‘Family Business’ which is definitely worth checking out on Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. For any budding writers out there that would like a frank & honest review of your audiobook or podcast whatever your genre please do get in touch via any of the below methods, or through my contacts page.

I am not a professional blogger, however if you have enjoyed what you have read please feel free to leave a comment (or two), it helps knowing that my writing strikes a cord, and engages with someone out there!

Dirty Diana – podcast review

Dirty Diana – podcast review

Dirty Diana’s opening credits warns the audience that the show contains adult language & explicit scenes, and is therefore not advised for persons under the age of 17 firmly painting the image you’re not in Kansas anymore! Dirty Diana is an adult themed podcast by QCode, created by Shana Feste, acted and produced by silver-screen actress Demi Moore. Think of the show as a hybrid between Sex in the City, and 1990’s film Basic Instinct, however within this podcast no one dies; well least not yet anyway.

To set the scene Demi Moore plays lead character Diana, who on the surface appears to be your stereotypical wife/mom living in middle something America that the rest of the world are accustomed with when thinking of the big U.S.A. Diana, starts out in the series as a helpless lady surviving within a boring male chauvinist finance firm, coupled with a rapidly failing marriage and unsettling addiction to prescription drugs. Is there a way out for Diana? Well that escapism, and sanctuary comes in the shape of Diana running her own secretive erotic sex-positive website called “Have a Good Wood” where she records intimate female fantasies for her ever growing popular podcast. I bet you didn’t see that one coming now did you!

Each episodes is aptly named after the lady sharing her particular secret fantasy, and without giving away the obvious, and trying to remain British some of them our quite risque. Naughtiness aside the show is much more than provocative fantasies as the podcast deftly documents Diana’s car-crash life as it entangles and spirals out of control right in front of you. This ingenious writing concept by Shana Feste is quite revolutionary placing the female character centre stage allowing the listener almost Hitchcock “Rear Window” access to Diana’s very intimate life.

Charting marital infidelities, counseling, and trademark estranged mother, the show all-be-it the very extreme end of life really does showcase how easily lives can spin out of control. The writing is flanked by a stellar cast of actors like Danish actor Claes Bang, actress Mackenzie Davis of Terminator Dark Fate fame, and one of my personal favourites fellow Brit Carmen Ejogo as Petra.

As mentioned the quality of actors on display would give Netflix a hit show, however convert that into audio and you really see if an actor is worth their hefty price tag as there is nowhere to hide within audio dramas. I will highlight two of my favourite characters from the podcast, but before that I want to also acknowledge how class Demi Moore is as Diana. Her instantly recognisable husky voice really lends to the spicy theme of this audio drama as she takes to audio work like a duck to water. You should also keep an ear out for Eric the hapless gringy bartender who pops up during ladies night with all the cheesy one-liners. His inclusion was comedy genius.

Petra played by Carmen Ejogo is a real force to be reckoned with, her presence adds a much needed classy, no nonsense, foxy panache to the show. Petra is the recent sole heiress of her father’s wealthy estate which is linked to Diana’s financial firm. Petra is a lady that knows exactly what she wants, and how to have a good time whilst she gets it. This is another shrewd move by the writer allowing a strong female character to co-exist with the lead character, but not too allowing Petra’s performance to overshadow Diana’s story.

The second actor I would like to mention is Claes Bang who plays Diana’s husband Oliver, whom most Brits might recognise as Count Dracula from the recent BBC TV series about the famous bloodsucker. Like Diana, Oliver’s character also starts out life as a fairly useless man coasting through life desperately trying to save his ailing marriage as it veers ever closer to the impending rocks. Claes brings a talented sense of tragicness and desperation to the role of Oliver which was wonderful to hear acted out. My favourite scene with Oliver takes place at their daughters school singing performance where Oliver and Diana share a moment of recollection of how their life used to be, the fun, the laughter which was quite a touching scene of joint reminiscence.

I couldn’t write this review without mentioning the music used throughout the podcast which was ace! Original music & composition was supplied by Darren Johnson who weaves the music into the very fabric of this audio drama. I want to highlight a super cool track that was dropped in the show which worked so well. The nightclub scene where Oliver takes Diana to meet the stripper he has been visiting is backed by a track called ‘Painting Greys’ by a chap called Emmit Fenn which sounds slightly Dr Dre’ish in parts works perfectly for that particular sleazy nightclub scene.

So who would listen to Dirty Diana? Well if you are reading this blog I would like to think that you hopefully have a thirst for seeking out interesting, challenging podcasts not shy of offering you the listener something different. The theme is very much on the seedier, raunchier side of things, but life is not all unicorns & candyfloss right? However the core message of this ongoing story for me is all about Diana and how she loses control, and turns a corner towards turning that around (that is all I will say). This is just the first season of Dirty Diana so I personally cannot wait to see what anctics the writers have instore for Diana come the second season!

The show can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you use to listen to your podcasts on. Oh, and just some friendly advice if you choose to listen to Dirty Diana I would recommend using headphones as there are some more, well lets just say adult scenes that should not be played on your Amazon Alexa whilst you make your dinner; just friendly advice!

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 listed below cheers Kev.

The Battersea Poltergeist Ep.9
Ghostly bonus episode
Real Dictators
Fresh historical podcast
Wandering With The Dead
Wild West with a dark twist

The Cipher
Webby nominated Sci-fi thriller 
Dirt
Modern day treasure hunt
From Now
Gargantuan intergalactic sci-fi

City of a Thousand Faces – audiobook review

City of a Thousand Faces – audiobook review

“There is a city far away, my parents often spoke of it as if it has always been there, and always will be. I had seen it in paintings and read about it in stories the richest most powerful city on earth, the centre of everything. It drew people from every corner of the empire and beyond, hungry for wealth & power, or in some cases more wealth & more power. Dazzled by its brightness, and like moths drawn to a candle many were burned alive by its candle… Tumanbay!”

‘The City of a Thousand Faces’ written by Walker Dryden, and read by Clare Corbett is a deeper dive into the absolutely amazing world of BBC4 audio drama Tumanbay. I previously reviewed Tumanbay in some depth a few weeks back, and enjoyed the audio drama so much I just had to download the Audible version to compare experiences. And boy I wasn’t let down!

Tumanbay is a historical mystical world based on the Mamluk slave dynasty of ancient Egypt. Since the sultans of this dynasty  were earlier slaves or the sons of former slaves, the Mamluk dynasty came to be known as the slave dynasty. Visualise a desert city far away built by slaves ruled by the almighty sultan where wealth, greed, power, and corruption sit side by side as the natural order of society; and sultans are dethroned, or assassinated as frequently as the changing of the seasons.

The City of a Thousand Faces stage is set within the first season of Tumanbay’s audio drama world. The depth, and journey the writers take you on actually brings the characters to life in such an astonishing way it feels like they literally jump off the page, or in my case out of my headphones. Clare Corbett’s narration is absolutely spot on, and I was completely blown away by her vocal ability to make every character sound defined and unique. I was also massively impressed with her varied accents as she switches between both sultan and peasant, and back again with ease within a world built out of beggars, spies, and emperors.

This book and the subsequent dialect from the audio drama run pretty much in parallel with one another, with the book naturally adding more contextual details about events not so present within the audio drama version. The wonderfully crafted scene between Cadali & Gregor where they share a mutual joke between themselves at the expense of the sultan is absolutely fantastic writing; normally enemies they both enjoy a brief moment of dare I say it associated amusement.

I also enjoyed the detailed description as you discover the depths of Tumanbay’s city of the dead, where a much more richer, nuanced picture is presented of the dark catacombs where Gregor is held in court by the underworlds thieves & dwellers.

The high stakes powerplay story of love, betrayal, and corruption is all there in grizzly high definition for readers to fully immerse themselves into, as the story builds towards the cities slow process of self destruction. I comfortably chewed through the one hundred chapters within days as I enjoyed the storyline and enchanting journey that much. My one hope is that the writers John Dryden & Mike Walker continue the story beyond this first book/season, and continue the epic saga on into the other three seasons already associated with the audio based drama. Perhaps that was always the plan. Either way I know that if this was to happen it would make for excellent reading/listening (fingers crossed!)

However you chose to enjoy this book of historical fiction in either audio or book format, they both can be purchased from either Amazon or Audible for your reading/listening pleasure. I can also highly recommend listening to Tumanbay via the BBC Sounds App, or what other method you chose to listen to podcasts on (Stitcher, Castbox, Spotify).

For any budding writers out there that would like a frank & honest review of your audiobook or podcast whatever your genre please do get in touch via any of the below methods, or through my contacts page.

Tumanbay – podcast review

Tumanbay – podcast review

“There is a city far away, my parents often spoke of it as if it has always been there, and always will be. I had seen it in paintings and read about it in stories the richest most powerful city on earth, the centre of everything. It drew people from every corner of the empire and beyond, hungry for wealth & power, or in some cases more wealth & more power. Dazzled by its brightness, and like moths drawn to a candle many were burned alive by its candle… Tumanbay!”

Written by John Dryden & Nick Walker this epic four series audio drama Tumanbay is a historical boundless BBC Radio 4 drama based on the Mamluk slave dynasty of ancient Egypt. Since the sultans of this dynasty  were earlier slaves or the sons of former slaves, the Mamluk dynasty came to be known as the slave dynasty. Visualise a desert city built by slaves ruled by the almighty sultan where wealth, greed, power, and corruption sit side by side as the natural order of society; and sultans are dethroned, or assassinated as frequently as the changing of the seasons. The fear of secretive, elusive Queen Mia from the Amber Provence and her advancing armies cause panic to run through the very fabric of the already shaken, unsettled city. Is it just the city that Mia wants to rule? Or perhaps there are supernatural forces at work?

Each episode follows events which take place within Tumanbay, this cut-throat sandy oasis, set against a backdrop of opulence and political intrigue, like a hybrid of a 90’s video game Prince of Persia, with the seediness of Jabba the Hutt’s Palace, only with excellent casting. Each of the four series feels like they are set out individually with their own storyline, yet masterfully link together with one glorious theme; which is super clever writing. The timeline is never mentioned, however if you take into account the plot development, and the passing of each sultan I would estimate that the shows timeline is about fifteen-twenty years which leaves plenty of time for the plot to unfold.

The actors used in Tumanbay are quite simply outstanding. The display of accents and vocal abilities really makes you feel like you are within the city walls, walking alongside the cast on those secretive cobbled streets. There is a whole host of talented actors on display within Tumanbay, like Heaven played by Olivia Popica. However I would like to briefly introduce you to the two key cornerstone characters that I enjoyed the most throughout this audio drama.

Rufus Wright voices Gregor, who entered Tumanbay as a boy and rose through the ranks over the years to commander of the palace guard. A straight talking, no nonsense character who manages to stay one step ahead of everyone else by relying on his wit, and ability to weed out palace spies. Gregor also has the insane ability to make sure he holds all the aces all of the time, and prefers to live within the shadows rather than within plain sight. Gregor also acts as Tumanbay’s narrator and guide, providing the listeners with his thoughts and opinions on the precarious situations he finds himself in. If you were in a very tight jam Gregor is the chap you want in your corner, and definitely make sure you are not on the receiving end of who can be at times a ruthless man.

Matthew Marsh plays the crafty Cadali, the grand vizier to the sultan, or whomever might be in power at that point in time. Matthew really helps you visualise and bring to life this disgustingly, conniving, corrupt creature that is Cadali. He is also the polar opposite of Gregor, only sharing their need to survive as a common interest. It is Cadalis job as grand vizier, to advise and influence the sultan in matters of the city. You can already see from my opening statement that he prefers to angle the cut of the cloth towards that of his own needs and interests. Fantastic casting of this particular character, which we all love to hate; every good series needs its villain to boo and hiss at!

I also want to touch on the beautifully crafted music incorporated throughout the series composed by Sacha Puttnam. Sacha really gives the listeners that magical Arabian night feel in a smart subtle way. The way he blends, and then fades the music into the end of every episode is nothing short of genius. I almost wish I didn’t know this was happening because it sadly signals the end of the episode you are listening to. It is definitely worth checking out the Tumanbay theme (titles 1) to see exactly what I mean about Sasha’s music, and whilst you are there explore the other brilliant music used within the show.

Whilst I am on this musical/sound theme I also wanted to briefly mention the sound design team responsible for all of the amazing sound effects, quirks, and other weird noises that bring this show to life. Without Eloise Whitmore & Laurence Farr we wouldn’t have the wonderful, creative, sound scaped world that is Tumanbay.

I like to end on the most obvious question, who would listen to Tumanbay? Well each episode is about 45 mins long so you do really need to set some time aside to fully immerse yourself within this audio drama. The show is built around the city’s political unrest, and skulduggery which features all of the common trappings you would expect from a city where life is cheap, like prostitution, slavery, and violence; the show is no shrieking violet. That said if you enjoy a really solid audio drama set in a semi fictional past you couldn’t ask for better than Tumanbay.

Naturally the BBC have the financial clout to produce this show in such a magnificent way, but no story is any good without creative writing, and John Dryden & Nick Walker have this comfortably in the bag. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is not a potential spin-off, or dare I say it sequel to Tumanbay on the cards (and here’s hoping). At this point it is worth mentioning that the writing partnership of Walker & Dryden have just released a book based (also available in audio format) on the Tumanbay series called ‘The City of a Thousand Faces’ that I will certainly be checking out. Whatever format you enjoy book or audio it can be purchased from Amazon or Audible, if like me you prefer listening to the audio version of dramas. Tumanbay is produced by Goldhawk Productions and you can check out the other dramas that they have produced like their podcast LifeAfter via their website Goldhawk Productions.
You can find Tumanbay on the BBC Sounds app, or from wherever you listen to your podcasts.

For any budding writers out there that would like a frank & honest review of your podcast, whatever your genre, audio-drama, factual, comedy, please do get in touch via any of the below methods, or through my contacts page.

Crypto-Z – podcast review

Crypto-Z – podcast review

My review starts with a small disclaimer. Fear not this is not one of those idiotic disclaimers warning Joe-public that their hotel bathtub becomes “slippery when wet!” Or even to be careful because a recent purchased bag of peanuts “may contain nuts!” No, my disclaimer has purpose letting the reader know know that this podcast review is science-fiction based. Looking at the title of this podcast you don’t need to be Columbo to work that one out, however sci-fi can easily split the pack on taste and preference hence the early waiver.

If you are still continuing to read on, thank you for having an open mind.

Written by Danielle Trussoni, and produced by Hadrien Royo, Crypto Z is set far in the future where mankind has finally managed to kill the planet and plunge the world into its sixth ice-age, or sixth extinction. We follow Crypto Z agents Jane Silver (Fiona Sheehan), & Felix Bright (Jamieson Price) on their mission within the French Alps as they track the elusive Icemen, who might just hold the key to save humanity escape its self inflicted ice-age. Crypto agents, or Cryptozoologists for those who are unaware (myself included) try to substantiate the existence of, or the search for, creatures whose reported existence is unproved, like the Abominable Snowman or the Loch Ness Monster. Their mission is simple, to save humanity from its own extinction by tracking down the so-called Icemen who supposedly have managed to survive and flourish through five previous ice-ages. What dark secrets will we uncover about our two intrepid adventurers, and what part does the mysterious Ark & Dr Ludwig Jacob Feist have to play in locating the Icemen’s village.

Listening to the shows first five episodes its lead characters development has been utterly sublime. Fiona Sheehan really brings protagonist Jane Silver to life. With every episode we dive a little deeper into this characters own personal secrets as to why she volunteered to seek out the Icemen. Personally Jane Silver is my new favourite person for pronouncing the title word in the British format of Zed instead of the American pronunciation of Zee!

The added inclusion of heavyweight voice actor Jamieson Price was a master stroke. Jamieson, a seasoned actor has worked for numerous years as a voice actor within Japanese Anime, playing pivotal roles in series like Bleach, Naruto, and the Colonel in the occult film Akira. And if that wasn’t enough, Jamieson also has his finger firmly on the video game pulse supplying his voice to video games like Call of Duty Black Ops, World of Warcraft, and the Announcer in Mortal Kombat! Trust me the list is endless. So overall I hope you get the picture, you are in very safe hands with Jamieson’s distinctive booming tones.

The depth of writing, sound quality, and production on display within Crypto Z really makes you feel like you are in there, alongside these two hero’s stuck in the snow, frightened trying to survive. In my opinion that ability to create immersive suspense within an audio drama easily rivals that of any heavily funded NetFlix series. Although Crypto Z is a sci-fi thriller, the creative writers managed to tap into actual current events like global climate change, and the fragility of both planet and humanity.

What impressed me during a break between episodes was how the shows producer Hadrien Royo recorded conversations with its team of actors, writers, and audio pioneers about the world of voice acting, sound design, highlighting what it actually takes to make a podcast happen. Think of this shrewd audience engagement with its listeners like you are receiving a free masterclass on how to get into the audio drama industry from those who know it best. Very clever marketing guys!

I would also like to mention that this show is recorded in at least 6 different locations including London, New York, and LA which is by no means an easy feat. That is before you launch the podcast against the backdrop of an unforeseen global outbreak, which at times must have felt just as challenging as the journey our Crypto Z agents find themselves in! A well deserved round of applause needs to be bestowed on the Crypto Z creative team for pulling this off, and for making the show happen every week in these uncertain times.

The feeling I get from the Euphonie team who create this weekly podcast is that of gifted professionals, humble, and open minded to develop the series the best way they can. Another winning side-note from my point of view is that they also don’t overfill the podcasts with super annoying sponsored adverts that no one pays any attention to; nice to know they haven’t sold out to corporate America just yet.

So who is this podcast for? Well to start with you don’t have to be a sci-fi junkie to appreciate Crypto Z. If like me every now and then you enjoy a story podcast full of excitement guiding you through twenty minutes of true escapism Crypto Z could be the ticket for you. And no, before you ask I am not sponsored by Crypto Z, however if there are any Crypto Z agents reading this feel free to send some cool merch my way.

Subconsciously I didn’t want to give too much of the plot away allowing you the chance to dive in and discover this podcast for yourself. The SOS style trailer below genuinely helps frame the story of this incredible podcast perfectly; if by chance my ramblings haven’t already convinced you to take the plunge and have a listen. You can also listen to the podcasts on their own website euponie.media, Spotify, or the old fashioned way by using the podcast player of your choice.

For any budding writers out there that would like a frank & honest review of your podcast, whatever your genre, audio-drama, factual, comedy, please do get in touch via any of the below methods, or through my contacts page.