Tron Theatre’s Earwig is a season of six podcasts by Scottish based playwrights that aims to explore the opportunities offered by ‘sonic theatre’. Designed to be heard via earphones – though, I can attest from experience, equally enjoyable if you are listening from a slightly tinny laptop while cleaning the kitchen or puffing away on an exercise bike – they are short, sharp bites of drama, easily fitted into the busiest day.
New episodes land each Wednesday until early March. The three aired so far – all still available on the Tron’s website – are strikingly different. Each works well on its own terms, but the shift in tone means they fare better listened to separately – bingeing in one go can be a jarring experience.
The Deadlift by Stef Smith is the story of two women who meet in a gym. One is a newbie at weights, one returning to a routine that grounds her. Both have their own reasons to be there. At 15 minutes – all the podcasts come in around that runtime – it’s inevitably slight, but Smith’s script deftly captures the ache to define (or redefine) oneself outside the needs and expectations of others, as well as the release physical exertion can bring, the way pushing your body can yield mental rewards, and also the surprise and satisfaction of a woman discovering her own strength. Ashley Smith and Renee Williams give solid and sympathetic performances, and it’s a pleasant change to experience a story that is centred on a woman’s body but that isn’t mainly about sexuality or beauty; its physicality is internally focused in a way that any discussion around women’s bodies is rarely allowed to be.
Hannah Lavery’s There is still something yet to discover (or Baba Yaga comes to you – while you are sleeping) is a far more slippery and experimental piece. A lyrical, moving exploration of the freedom and frustrations of womanhood and parenting, it’s loosely tied into the Slavic myth of Baba Yaga, an enigmatic and much-interpreted (and arguably much-misunderstood) figure who has made appearances in everything from folklore to Young Adult novels to John Wick. Performances by Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Kathryn Joseph and music by Julia Reidy and Danny Krass blend into a hazy, disorienting soundscape that slips between sleep and wakefulness, shifting through days and experiences into something subtly unsettling.
Perhaps the most like a ‘traditional’ audio play, Johnny McKnight’s Tikka is a little slice of big-hearted comic joy. A man is lovingly preparing a curry for his bubble-mate, while trying to psych himself up to admit that he wants them to be more than just friends. Unfortunately, he can’t quite shake the nagging voice of his opinionated maw, who has thoughts aplenty on everything from her son’s romantic habits to his weight. Performed with zest by Robbie Jack, Reuben Joseph and Ann Louise Ross, it’s packed with sharp jokes and enough acerbic wit to give those of us who grew up with an outspokenly ‘concerned’ mother flashbacks.
New episodes of Earwig are released weekly up to 10th March. More info here.