10 best theatre podcasts to listen to in 2017
The audience for podcasts is huge, and growing all the time (up 23% in 2016), with some of the most successful series reaching a bigger audience than many traditional radio broadcasts.
The creation of podcasts is relatively simple, so anyone with a good idea and some basic equipment can potentially reach this global audience. It’s no wonder theatre companies have got in on the act. There are now many great theatre podcasts available, tackling all aspects of the industry, and they are a great, free source of information for industry professionals and students.
In 2016, we saw the launch of The Stage podcast. Launched at the Brighton Festival, with follow-up episodes at Edinburgh, it is offering some great interviews, discussions and analysis. Alongside The Stage, here are 10 more podcasts worth listening to.
The Honest Actors' podcast does exactly what it says on the tin. Frank and honest interviews about the reality of being an actor. These podcasts are direct and hugely helpful. Recently, host Jonathan Harden interviewed Arsher Ali and their discussion took in diversity, class, the reality of a drama school training and getting work, and indeed not getting work, and unemployment. For anyone wanting to know what it is honestly like to be an actor, this is the podcast for you – it dispels the ‘luvvie’ myths and presents the industry as it really is.
The National Theatre has a range of podcasts. Its podcast selections are recordings of their extensive Platform series. As a student, I found the Platforms at the NT an indispensable insight into the work on stage. At that point, the NT would publish transcripts of the Platforms for sale in the bookshop. Moving with the times, these Platform discussions are available as podcasts and are as indispensable as ever. The quality and depth of the podcast depends on who is being interviewed, and who is asking the questions. Generally they offer fascinating insights into the work, and how the work is created.
Royal Court Playwright's Podcast
Over at the Royal Court Theatre, there is a relatively new podcast concentrating on the work of the playwright. In the first episode, Simon Stephens talks to Enda Walsh, while in the second episode Stephens chats with April De Angelis. As Stephens declares, he is friends with the writers he interviews and as such there is an ease about the conversation, which allows them to go further than the average interview. Stephens starts by asking writers what their first experience of theatre was and goes from there. Insightful interviews from the home of new writing.
BBC Academy Podcast
Writers may also want to head over to the BBC Academy podcast to listen to its episode about the making of radio drama Home Front. The BBC Academy podcast has more than writing episodes, it takes in all of the TV industry and would be of interest to any writers, directors, producers or actors wanting to break into TV. Many of the episodes are transferable to theatre and other creative industries and there are also episodes on subjects such as NT Live, examining how theatre can reach new audiences through live broadcasting. It’s a fascinating look at where broadcast and theatre meet.
The Producer's Perspective
Ken Davenport is a Broadway producer. His work includes Godspell, Kinky Boots and Deaf West Theatre’s Spring Awakening. He is also the creator of a blog and a podcast on the role of the Broadway producer. His guests include playwrights, composers, directors and of course fellow producers. It gives a great perspective on American theatre, and it’s interesting to think about the similarities as well as the differences with British theatre. His recent interview with The Stage regular Howard Sherman covered subscription theatres, theatre buildings and their (lack of) comfort, the secondary ticket market and the relationship Broadway has with Off-Broadway and theatre across the US.
Guildhall School of Music and Drama
For those applying for drama school, Guildhall’s podcast is a must. The podcast has a series of ‘in conversations’ with the cast, crew and creative teams of their public productions. Along with its discussions of productions, there are also some insightful podcasts with staff, such as voice coach Patsy Rodenburg, on their technical theatre exhibition. The podcast gives a great insight into the work happening in a conservatoire.
The Legacy Tapes
The Legacy Tapes is a unique podcast. Part of Exeunt, the Legacy Tapes sees director Rebecca Atkinson-Lord talking to artistic directors about leaving a legacy in what is a very ephemeral art form. When so much commentary is on the here and now, on the practicalities of getting theatre created, engaging with audiences, on the nuts and bolts of theatre, the concept of discussing our legacy is fascinating. Atkinson-Lord gets access to some of the country's most innovative leaders. I particularly enjoyed her conversation with Royal Court artistic director Vicky Featherstone, and the impact the legacy the Royal Court’s history has on her position – "standing on the shoulders of giants" while looking to the future.
Spotlight’s podcast has become a little too sporadic for my liking, but it assures me there are more episodes on the way. As you might expect from Spotlight, there are numerous conversations with casting directors including Julia Crampsie (BBC), Royal Shakespeare Company head of casting Hannah Miller and former Eastenders executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins. It offers a sense of how the casting process works, answering many of those questions actors want to know about how casting decisions are reached. But the podcast doesn’t just talk about casting, there are episodes on inclusivity, voice, movement and more. Let's hope in 2017 we see many more episodes from this invaluable podcast.
Inside Acting comes from LA. A cross between the Spotlight Podcast and Honest Actors, coming from the US. The episodes range from interviews to listener questions to round-table discussions. They cover topics such as trusting your gut, treating acting as a sales job, avoiding scams and finding a good theatre group. The podcast offers an insight into what life is like for an actor based in LA. Many of the topics are universal, and it will also be of interest to any actor thinking of making the move to Hollywood.
Off Book is the Young Vic’s podcast. It features interviews with some of the artists who have visited the Young Vic. Conversations bring to light people's first experiences with the arts and theatre, how their background has informed the work they produce today and how they have developed throughout their career. This being the Young Vic, it is able to engage with an astonishing array of artists. Peter Brook talks about his early experiences watching theatre and cinema, and inviting his father in to the rehearsal room ("From then on I never let anyone into the rehearsal").
How to listen
iPhone and iPod users will have a podcast app already installed on the device, but I have to confess I find it a little clunky and not particularly user-friendly. I prefer to use the Overcast app, which is free to download from the App Store. Android users have a variety of options – Pocket Casts is highly recommended.
Even without a smartphone, a quick online search for the podcast will usually bring up a website with a variety of ways to listen.