For anyone who has found the Olympics coverage on TV a bit … patchy, may I recommend switching to the radio? BBC 5 live is peppering its whole morning with Olympics info, there are several BBC podcasts, including one from 無線 2, and it’s all sort of normal, 本当に. Though there’s no Sports Extra coverage (boo), the presence of Eleanor Oldroyd and Mark Chapman, our nation’s commentating mummy and daddy, makes everything seem OK.
Of the podcasts, Kelly Cates’s The Olympics Daily is the most straightforward and informative, an easy summary of all that’s been going on, with highlights and interviews. Radio 2’s OJ Borg on Olympics Poptathlon is fun, busily trying to turn sportspeople into personalities via their musical taste. Marathon runner Jess Piasecki picked several tracks, including Pulp’s Common People, which she plays just before she starts a race. “If it pops into my head while I’m running – and during two and half hours it’s bound to – I can just recite some of the words, and that distracts you," 彼女は言いました, a sweet image.
There’s also Aimee Fuller’s The Olympic Mile, where Fuller, a former Olympic snowboarder, walks a mile with some of the more well-known athletes. Recorded in the UK before the Games, some of the chat clangs a bit now (例えば, taekwondo-er Jade Jones, WHO went out in the first round, insisting “only gold is good enough”). Fuller is charming, but with much of the chat revolving around training and eating regimes, this is a show too far for me.
Dotun Adebayo, 5 live’s night-time stalwart, is gamely battling through various small-hours Olympic dramas, and hosted an interesting discussion on Tuesday as to whether men’s football should be kicked out of the Games. His show started late because the women’s triathlon was coming to its exciting finish; Colin Murray stayed on past the end of his show until the medal ceremony was held. As the Bermudian Flora Duffy won, there was much excited speculation between Murray, Adebayo et al about hearing the Bermudian national anthem at the Olympics, for the first time ever. Everyone held their breath, waiting for it to play … and God Save the Queen blared out. Ha! Good old British colonialism, stamping all over the fun.
Aside from the Olympics, 5 live is also covering The Hundred, the new, time-pressed version of cricket, where only 100 balls are bowled in each innings and the whole thing is over in two-and-a-half hours. The Hundred’s matches are a sell-out, but on the radio it’s a weird listen. The loooooong leisureliness of cricket is what makes its radio coverage so brilliant – especially Test Match Special – with commentators such as Jonathan “Aggers” Agnew and Phil “Tuffers” Tufnell chuntering on about their lunches as well as the play. Even one-day cricket is relaxed; 5 live covered Somerset v Glamorgan on Wednesday, and the same pootling atmosphere prevailed. “A delightful scene here in Taunton,” mused Anthony Gibson. “Some lovely ladies’ hats …”
Two days before, coverage of the Hundred was very hectic (even the team names: Trent Rockets, Northern Superchargers, Welsh Fire – cricket teams, or alcoholic shots?). So swift was the action that Stephan Shelmit wondered if he’d even have time to list who was playing. He managed to gabble out the teams, which included a couple of well-known England names, Joe Root and Ben Stokes. They were on opposite sides, which got everyone excited, but Stokes only lasted five balls; wickets fell thick and fast. The Hundred’s super-speed – so far, it’s a bowler’s game – might prove to be its undoing.
How about something more immersive? 無線 4 has snapped up the second series of Passenger List, the Massachusetts-based Radiotopia’s excellent podcast drama about a mysterious missing transatlantic plane. If you haven’t heard it already (it came out in May) then you could go straight to Radiotopia’s website, but on Radio 4 it’s six nice 45-minute episodes instead of Radiotopia’s shorter eight. どちらにしても, Passenger List is gripping, full of today’s paranoias: viruses, Russian interference, terrorists… Much of the drama is silly, 本当に, but the realistic acting and exceptional sound design takes it to another level. Every muffled phone call and stumbling footstep sounds just as it should, and brings you into the action rather than pushing you away. The UK has some great writers and actors; if they, あまりにも, could work with boundary-pushing directors and sound designers then there’s no reason why our audio drama couldn’t be as good as this.
A very different approach comes from the new writing company Futures Theatre. Its new podcast Fully Amplified combines interviews and drama to explore stories from more than 30 women and non-binary people. The immense Sharon D Clarke plays Aunty in Black Mermaids by Tanya Loretta Dee. You can’t fail to enjoy Clarke’s relish in words, how she speaks them to life through her performance.