Who’s Johnny Long Arms?

Johnny Long Arms Cover

An audio drama short from UK arts nonprofit “Life you Choose,” “Who’s Johnny Long Arms” is a horror story with little to no suspense or actual fear for the characters. Life you Choose does’t work with trained actors and that’s apparent in the first few minutes. Doing a bit of research after the fact, it became clear the purpose wasn’t to entertain the masses. Instead, the goal was more than likely a confidence booster for the people playing the characters, and there’s nothing wrong with helping kids with learning disabilities try to come out of their shell.

Full disclaimer: Most if not all of my employment history has been with non-profits, whether it’s national ones like PBS or smaller organizations on an independent contractor basis, there’s a soft spot in my heart for 501(c)(3) organizations. That being said, those looking for quality in their audio dramas should look elsewhere. There’s plenty of professional material on iTunes and audible, if you’re willing to pay for it.

The story of “Who’s Johnny Long Arms?” is basic, but not simple. There’s unexplained subtext which doesn’t have time to be addressed in an eleven minute short. In summation, the story ends on an anti-climactic note, giving the listener a sense of incompletion and bored wonder. At various points it’s even hard to understand what’s being said. Part of the problem is the actors. Again these are by no means professionals and shouldn’t be judged the same way.

For their first audio drama, “Life you Choose” shows potential. Practice makes perfect and as someone with disabilities, I wish there was a organization like this growing up. There’s a need for programs like that. Going off script here: Support your local PBS station and help keep public broadcasting alive and well. Or if you’re in the UK, consider donating to “Life you Choose.” As for this review:

3.5/5 Stars

Links

Twitter

Facebook

YouTube

Sound Cloud

Patreon

Big Data | The Complete Series (Episodes 1-9)

Big Data Cover Art

Ryan Estrada’s nine episode comedy series asks some big questions and tackles even bigger ideas. Big Data is both funny and smart. A trait not found in a lot of humor pieces. At its heart Big Data will appease fans of both random side jokes and those who prefer a coherent story with humor sprinkled in. Almost all the jokes are a home run. At its peak, Big Data is both social commentary and a well-written sitcom with meta humor about the medium of podcasts. After all, it asks the question: What if the internet was gone?

The idea of there being seven keys to access ICANN and destroy the internet as we know it, sounds like the plot out of an epic or urban fantasy series. However, while that might be fantastical, the depth and knowledge of how the internet works is amazing. There’s just enough to make you wonder if there really are keys to the internet.

The tongue in cheek method of improv comedy isn’t just apparent in the episodes like “Relay” where there’s a blow by blow description of what’s happening from a single person. Something which is hard to pull off in an audio drama, but works marvelously here. If there was one thing about Big Data which might be a turn off it’s the chaotic nature of each episode. The script, assuming there is one, doesn’t have dialogue in the same sense as a movie or television show. It’s more like Mr. Estrada put people in a room, told them about the scene and let the audio recorder run for however long it took. The ultimate audio drama ad-libbing session.

Starting out as a successful Kickstarter campaign, Big Data asks complex questions, bordering on philosophical at points. Yet it’s still humorous, throughout. If you thought the episodes were funny, stay for the credits as you’ll get a quick chuckle out of them as well.

5/5 Stars

Links

Twitter

Facebook

YouTube

Sound Cloud

Patreon

Review of Companions: A Sci-Fi Romance

Artwork for Companions

It’s not quite a romance in space, but writer Bob Koester know how to elicit the same emotions as a Harlequin novel. Interpret that however you want, but personally the milieu of Companions convoluted the romance arc, leaving it watered down and by no means easy to follow.

The story’s setting is hands-down hard science fiction, while the primary drive comes from the two love interests. The main problem with the characters is how they interact and that has nothing to do with the actor’s performances. Koester complicates their method of communication by adding a layer of confusion to an already loaded script, filled with a lot of exposition that doesn’t add much substance. They talk through a virtual simulation and the dialogue during those scenes will make you re-listen at least once, because you don’t know who’s talking: the online avatar or the person controlling it?

One thing which stood out was the non-linear structure of the story that’s combined rather elegantly with a classic victorian-esque frame narrative, though obviously set in the future. In addition to the frame, the story also skips around the lives of the protagonist, dodging the “boring” bits through obvious author sleight of hand.

Whether it’s a romance masquerading as hard science fiction or hard SF pretending to be a romance, Companions is worth a listen or two. Just don’t expect to understand everything even a second time through.

4/5 Stars

Links

Twitter

Facebook

YouTube

Sound Cloud

Patreon

Interview with Companions’ Writer/Director

In a recent interview with Audio Drama Reviews sister site “Audio Drama Digest,” creator Bob Koester sat down with us to explain the behind the scenes of the story. You can find that here.

Voices in the Wind Presents: Snow White – An Audio Drama

Snow White Audio Drama Cover

Adapted from the classic Grimm fairy tale, this audio drama of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” follows the source material well, yet adds some new elements and characters that fans of the Disney film will find interesting and compelling. A sort of secret history of what really happened.

Rather than start in media res with the evil queen and Snow White as established characters, the story begins with Snow’s mother and an owl conversing about the future. The princess hasn’t even been born yet. After introducing the geo-political tension between two rival kingdoms, you realize this isn’t your childhood Disney feature presentation.

The biggest difference between the children’s story and the animated film is the ending. For those who aren’t aware, the evil Queen tries three times to kill Snow White herself (four if you count the huntsman). The apple is a last resort, but it’s unclear as to whether the poison was the cause of Snow White almost dying.

The dwarves are limited to four. This change from the animated film and possibly the original fairy tale is almost required for an audio drama. The problem people thought the first Avenger’s film was going to have was too many characters to juggle and not being able to do them justice. David Farquhar and Voices in the Wind solve this problem by simplifying it. Rather than having at least seven people play the dwarves, he uses four who each act different from each other, yet combine traits from the other three dwarves found in the Disney film. Comparisons aside, this truly has feel of a fairy tale.

Farquhar is a force to be reckoned with and I look forward to his next project. You can find this on Audible, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, and more. For less than ten dollars, it’s perfect for kids and adults and for those awesome parents who want to introduce their children to audio drama at an early age.

5/5 Stars

Links

Twitter

Facebook

YouTube

Sound Cloud

Patreon

Interview: Bob Koester, Director of Companions

Interview took place on 01/04/2017. MB=Michael Bergonzi. BK: Bob Koester.

You can check out the review of his audio drama: Companions over at AudioDramaReviews.com shortly after the 200th review celebration on the 29th of January. Check back here to get the link. Also be sure to follow us one Twitter and Facebook. And don’t forget, we have a Patreon.

MB: So, what sparked this story?

BK: The story began with the ending, sort of. I imagined a specific post-apocalyptic scenario basically like the one that Companions ends with, and then decided I wanted to get there by starting from before the apocalyptic event happened.

MB: Interesting. What was the hardest thing about writing this story?

BK: Probably capturing what makes the leads, Harry and Cailyn, fall in love. That’s a pretty big mystery in general, and as I say the original idea was more of a Big Picture Science Fiction thing. I kind of borrowed a trick from Shakespeare by having them already kind of like each other before the story begins, so they just need some incidents to become mutually aware of it.

MB: Yeah, one thing I noticed while listening was that the virus affecting everyone back on Earth sort of took a backseat to the romance. Speaking of that, was the idea of the simulation from the story’s inception or did you think of that later?

BK: Yeah, the love story definitely took over during the course of writing it. As to the simulation, I knew there’d be some sort of long-distance communication from the beginning, with some people far off and isolated in a classic sci-fi way. The simulations came in about halfway through, when I was looking for something that would require the characters to really invest in each other if they wanted to relate.

MB: So you were pretty set on the isolation aspect of the characters and didn’t want Harry and Kay to meet each other in real life. Why make this an audio drama?

BK: Well, it started first as a movie idea (I have a hobby of making short films), then I decided the setting made that too difficult, so I thought of making it a short novel. That’s when I came up with the character of CO, to be the narrator of the novel. But then I decided that the simulation sessions made it all very theatrical. They’re putting on a show for each other, and kind of living their relationship in scenes. It was actually put on as a one-day minimalist stage show. But then I decided as an audio drama I’d have great ability to use background noises and the like to indicate places and events to the audience.

MB: Interesting. I never would’ve pictured a simulation as theatrical. Were the actors in the same room when they recorded or was this all done remotely?

BK: All in one room. For a while it seemed like that wouldn’t be possible, but I’m glad it worked out that way.

MB: Cool. The structure of the narrative is less than traditional. What made you want to tell a story in such a non-linear and unconventional way when so many of the ideas in the story are difficult to grasp? The simulated Harry and Kay vs their real life counterparts and the technical jargon being the two main examples.

BK: Well let’s see. Telling it all as a story from a future point was a way of making that post-apocalyptic future kind of permeate it. It quickly became clear that I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time there, narratively, because the romance became so central, so I wanted a kind of developing sense that the events we were seeing had let to something else later. Even though the audience spends a lot of time not knowing exactly what that future was or exactly what the significance of these future characters could be.

As far as the audience picking up on the simulations vs. real-life people, that is a lot to ask and it was kind of a leap of faith in the audience. I think in a stage play there’d be ways to telegraph some of it, or I could have done the same by having the simulations have some sort of voice effect to differentiate them from the real people, but I decided the potential sense of accomplishment the audience would get from figuring it out themselves could be worth the risk.

In the YouTube version of the story, which has accompanying abstract computer graphics, I put in a hint about who is real and who’s a simulation in each scene, but less than half of people I ask pick up on it, and even they all had figured it out before they noticed the clue.

MB: Well, let me just get on record as being one of those confused listeners. You said this was originally a movie idea. Did you have trouble adapting for a medium without visuals?

BK: Um, I didn’t THINK I had trouble, I guess you’d be a better judge of the result. I did definitely have to make some changes. I drastically altered a scene because the early version had relied on visual cues and just using the way a play stage works. But in my head at least it seemed pretty natural once it changed. If challenging.

I’m sure I lean on a bunch of science fiction stuff that makes sense to me and doesn’t occur to me to explain. And pretty much every version had more and more explanation cut out because it can be kind of dead air if it’s not necessary.

Also some more basic stuff, like Harry telling Cailyn that she “sounds worried” rather than “looks worried”. Which is almost counter-intuitive but I liked the idea that the audience could judge for itself whether he was reading her rightly, rather than having to imagine what expression she had that was worrying him.

MB: I get that. I’m the same way with my own writing, never sure of how little information I’m actually giving the reader until someone actually experiences it. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Are there any social media channels readers/listeners can find you at?

BK: You’re very welcome! I’m @hamletseries on twitter. Companions is on Facebook at facebook.com/playcompanions, and I have a blog at hamletseries.wordpress.com that is currently dominated by Companions-related stuff, including ways to listen to or download it.

Endurance: The Complete Epic Series (1-6)

Endurance Cover Art
Author Picture

Produced by Word of Mouth Productions, Endurance is a space opera on the surface, but not at its core. Using the tools of other science fiction before it, the creators of Endurance go wide, rather than deep into their story. The result is a cast of characters who might as well be complete strangers and an episodic structure promising one thing, but giving something else (for good or ill).


The first episode has its social stigma in the portrayal of Choi, a tech-savy asian business tycoon with a stereotypical accent. It's not as bad as stuff from the forties and fifties, but you'd be hard pressed not to roll your eyes at the voice.


By the time episode five rolls around, you have a general idea of where the overall arc of the story is headed. Executed almost like the first Avengers film in which each character is introduced in a creative and interesting way, the first half of the series acts as both a mystery and "page turner."


Each episode is standalone, focusing on a single character and having a full arc. Some pack more of an action vibe, while others are quiet moments. Episode five is perhaps the most emotional scene, dealing with issues like assisted suicide in a believable and almost heartbreaking way. The first episode is a Die Hard-type adventure with very little internal conflict. Episode six is a perfect blend of the two and offers a nice midseason finale for the series.


Endurance manages to be its own thing and still pack a punch episode to episode. Some are hit or miss, but the scope of the project is something to be marveled.


Expect the remaining six episodes shortly after the 200th review of We're Alive Season Three goes live on January 29, 2017. Plus a little something extra.

Michael L Bergonzi    Website   

Press Release: UK International Radio Drama Festival 2017

Submissions are now open for the 3rd UK International Radio Drama Festival (UKIRDF) that takes place in the historic seaside town of Herne Bay between February 20th-25th, the submission deadline is 31st December 2016.

Through a local FM broadcast the festival airs a variety of radio dramas from across the world, in their native languages, over the course of the festival. Once the dramas have been aired FM audiences will be able to listen to the shows again via our website.

As well as featuring in the festival we are also honoured to be able to have two awards, £2,000 for feature drama and £750 for short drama and there is also a Public Award of £750 voted for from our listeners both online and on air.

What makes the UKIRDF so unique is that we are the biggest international radio drama festival in the UK. The 2016 festival had over 60 submissions from all over the world which enabled the creative team to programme 30 feature programmes and 10 shorts over the festival period.

We aim to truly champion the power of that radio drama continues to play in the lives of audiences and to further this the UKIRDF theme is From Stage To Air, more information on this can be found in the Festival Regulations.

UKIRDF remains a free festival to submit to and we welcome radio dramas from national broadcasters, professional bodies and independent producers.

You can check out their website here. Or, if you’re interested in submitting, download and fill out the form.

RED SUN: Hajima

At first glance, this sounds like a cool idea and upon closer inspection it had the potential to be a kick ass modern-day take on Samurai. Most of the problems lie within the short length of each episode and the odd, almost forced characterization of the main character.

Miles Moto is supposed to be an Asian American Bruce Wayne. He certainly has the skills, but they border on the unbelievable. For example, there’s no real sense of how hard he trained. This is an origin story and its hard to suspend disbelief on a guy who suffers from a haunted past in the military. The way the fight scenes were handled certainly didn’t help, but again the setup wasn’t there to make you believe he could do all those things and do them so well. On top of that, his desire to become part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic is a bit forced on the page, but comes across as not all that important until the end. The opening narration for each episode, explaining who Miles Moto is and what his passions are, go a bit too in-depth with his character. It adds some depth, sure, but what’s the point aside from making him forcibly more complex.

The length of the episodes is almost too short for what it’s trying to accomplish in this five-part origin story arc and the fact you have to purchase them individually is also a pain. The shortest episode is around ten minute long, including the credits. Considering the money you put in, the investment is barely worth it–Quality not withstanding. An extra five minutes for each episode or ten minutes across all the episodes would have given a lot more context on the characters. As it stands now, I really didn’t care about any of them.

There were a number of awesome story hooks that never got utilized to their full potential. On top of that, it just wasn’t that memorable. Nothing got you excited about going out and purchasing the next episode, let alone listening to it.

The acting is without a doubt the best part and the production value is at least on par with many audio drama podcasts, if not better.

4/5 Stars

New Audible Studios Production: Oedipus the Audio Drama

From the business insider: the classic Greek tragedy has gotten the audible studios treatment. It stars Hayley Attwell (Peggy Carter from the Marvel Studios films) and is performed by a full cast, including Game of Thrones actor, Julian Glover and Downton Abbey’s Samantha Bond.

The cast also stars Emma Thompson, Jesse Eisenberg, James Franco and Kate Winslet as well as Rosamund Pike, Tim Robbins and Dan Stevens.

It’s available now on audible.

Coquettes & Cougars|Brimble Banks Brothers Episode 10

A charming and humorous blend of oral storytelling and drama for the ear. The tenth episode of the Brimble Banks Brothers is a self-contained unit and at the same time a continuation of previous episodes. Coquettes and Cougars is the story of a family in Atlanta and their daughter’s planned marriage to someone of aristocratic heritage and wealth.

Honestly, the frame story of the brothers was far more interesting than the one of southern sensibilities and random cougar attacks. The frame narrative uses classic fourth wall breaking to constantly throw you in and out of the story. At times this is exhausting as you aren’t sure if you’re listening to the story about cougars in the southern United States or back in the real world with two bickering brothers who can’t seem to agree on what the story is about.

The overall narrative is all over the place and incorporates characters from previous episodes into the story. Yes, it’s that kind of story. No holds barred and out there in terms of pacing and plot. In this story, anything goes, including the kitchen sink. If that’s your cup of tea, you’ll enjoy the stories type of humor.

The biggest problem with this is the lack of attention to detail at some points. Not from a story stand point, but a production aspect. The volume goes up significantly at random places throughout the 50 minute long episode. It’s doubtful it was intentional and it’s not something you hear every day in the audio drama community, no matter if it’s free or for purchase.

Without having listened to earlier episodes, it’s hard to give thoughts on the overarching series with the two brothers. That being said, it sits on my feed, waiting for when I have free time.

4/5 Stars