In the rapidly developing podcast scene, audio dramas are not where you would expect them to be. Cult favourites like Campfire Radio Theatre and The Nosleep Podcast have a surreal campy quality that keeps the audience listening for the story, but hardly convinces them of reality. The Shadows from CBC Podcasts, in contrast, is stunningly persuasive.
Kaitlin Priest plays a fictionalised version of herself in a whirlwind romance that strikes true from start to finish. The limited series is strikingly intimate, relying on a combination of narration and pillow talk to not just tell a story but explore broader concepts of love and monogamy in the twenty-first century.
We are told that this is partially autobiographical, and moments between Priest and her beau, Charlie, can be difficult to listen to at times. You’re brought into the apartment, the bedroom, where Charlie falls in love with the way Priest works in the nude and, at times, seems to bear even fewer pretensions emotionally. It’s not the graphic nature of their sexual encounters so much as their emotional intimacies that can seem excessive. The two falling for one another in a matter of days with a convincing vulnerability is perfectly suited for the podcast medium. With closed eyes, the actors whisper in your ears.
Both lead characters work as puppeteers, balancing their whimsical ambition with grant maintenance and side hustles. The world they live in feels young, populated by emotionally intelligent friends and platonic cuddling. Perhaps this is part of what makes the story so compelling; their youthful optimism, the torrent of emotions that manages to destabilise everything, how serious it all feels.
Rather than leaving one on the edge of their seat, this podcast will leave one listening with fingers poised over the pause button. It’s mesmerising, immersing us in the raw emotional realities of millennials, and repels, rendering the audience as an intruder eavesdropping on private conversations and machinations. It demands answers to difficult questions about honesty, monogamy, emotional labour and romantic responsibility.
None of these themes are surprising given Preist’s background. She is well known in the audio world for The Heart, an award-winning podcast out of Radiotopia covering all things intimate through a critical lens.
The Shadows shares that critical eye, mediations and conversations interpolated with written text about love. More than that, its focus on the intense quirkiness and difficult quirks of this one relationship speaks to the nature of intimacy itself by only partially fictionalising and fully illustrating what is normally so private. It, appropriately, draws no concrete conclusions, but through this act of illustrating invites its listeners to reflect on their own experiences with love and change.
Image: Jason Thibault via Flickr