Having missed the original scheduling of the Fizzy Sherbet podcasts, I’m now on the home straight with the three most recent releases. All of them feature a short play by a woman writer from a number of global locations accompanied by discussions with writers, directors and other guests who add significant commentary about the themes of each piece. Another incidental joy has been listening to the evocation of memories by asking each of the guests for a sweet related reminiscence. As my parents owned a confectionery shop, this particularly resonated with me.
May Day is, at the same time, a day of joyous celebration and a distress call. So, it seems an entirely appropriate choice of title for a play from Grace Chapman (no relation…as far as I’m aware). It was first developed as a piece for Zoom during lockdown and has now been repurposed for audio, but we take it that the couple discussing aspects of their lives are still doing so using the video conferencing tool of choice throughout the pandemic. Helen and Diana have reached a crossroads in life and although they have known each other for decades have failed to be quite truthful with each other. Caught up in midlife whirl of stale relationships, their families and baking they finally find the courage to come clean and declare their true feelings. The intensity of the dialogue ebbs and flows nicely and reflects the trajectory of the women’s relationship in this well written and entirely believable piece which ends on a note of hope. Tanya Loretta-Dee and Lucille Findlay make an entirely convincing pair especially when they are bonding through shared laughter.
Eulogies by Lashay Green also features a pair of voices although this time they are both issuing from the same character separated by a twenty year gap. Roli Okorodudu and Sophie Cartman play a protagonist who has endured many forms of trauma and who investigate events throughout their lives via parallel perspectives. The emphasis is on how the events of the past remain to trouble our older selves and shape our response to the world. Cartman’s take on the character is more forceful and assured; Okorodudu is more reflectively analytical – experience proves a great leveller. Green’s script reveals her love of and assured touch with poetic forms. While this isn’t a verse drama the instances of subtle internal rhyme and the rhythmic nature of the dialogue heightens the experience for the listener. Sarah Sayeed’s sound design is unusual but evocative. It’s a piece that really needs to be listened to more than once to gain its full effect.
Scientific by Brazilian writer Fernanda Rocha is another play which premiered on Zoom and has one of the oddest premises of any of the short plays appearing in this podcast series. A scientific researcher (Sarah Boberg) delivers a lecture about the discovery of a prehistoric beast/monster taking her audience (and by extension us) fully into the creature itself to explore it in invasive detail. Apparently it’s an extended metaphor about conquest and violation (as typified by acts of colonialism) though I have to say this did not dawn on me until engaging with the subsequent discussion where such things were spelled out. Does this make the piece any less successful? Not necessarily, as it can be enjoyed simply on an adventure story/sci fi level with plenty of gruesome squelching as the protagonist explores from the inside. This is provided by Julian Starr’s impressive and immersive sound design apparently utilising the effects of fruit based foley techniques. There are shades of Jonah and The Whale about the narrative, and things become positively stomach churning when the creature’s tongue is taken away as a prize to be stored in the researcher’s shower so that it doesn’t dry out.
And on that fragrantly evocative image I’ll take my leave of Fizzy Sherbet. It’s been an interesting few weeks of discovering these online plays and discussion fora. I wonder if, now that the pandemic seems to be over – or at least disregarded – whether this and other series like it will go forward and continue to educate and enlighten those who find the creative process endlessly fascinating. And in case any of the creative team involved are reading this, my sweet related memory is of the discs known as flying saucers, which consisted of rice paper and, now I think of it, a dab of sherbet. Pop one in your mouth and it dissolved to form a fizzing confection which stimulated to the point where you couldn’t resist another – much like this series I feel.