In Review

Podcasts of the week: Philippa Perry, bite-size science and a spy caper

Featuring Consumed by Desire, Who Is Aldrich Kemp?, Short Wave and One to One

Philippa Perry’s BBC Sounds podcast, Consumed by Desirehad me “thoroughly beguiled”, said James Marriott in The Times. Her previous excellent pods for Audible, Families in Crisis and Siblings in Session, took the form of anonymised therapy sessions. This one is more of a “psychotherapeutic and philosophical ramble through the idea of desire”, in which Perry is joined by the likes of artist Michael Landy, advertising executive Rory Sutherland, and writer/psychotherapist Adam Phillips.

In the wrong hands, all this could “become wafty and aimless. Fortunately, Perry has the natural insight that I’ve always suspected is probably more useful in a psychotherapist than years of training.” I do have one “unfulfilled desire” for the podcast, though: to be free of the surfeit of audio clutter (the sound of guests getting in and out of taxis and so on). “But, as Perry warns, the fulfilment of all our desires can be a dangerous thing...”

I’m a big fan of Julian Simpson’s The Lovecraft Investigationssaid Miranda Sawyer in The Observer – three series of “incredibly engaging, madly spooky” mysteries, based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Simpson’s new five-part drama, Who Is Aldrich Kemp?, is a fabulous “spy/crime caper” that overlaps a bit with his Lovecraft world (we hear the occasional familiar voice), but which stands on its own merits.

The “ludicrously far-fetched” plot centres on a secret service researcher and skilled fencer named Clara Page, who must track down criminal mastermind Aldrich Kemp. Along the way we meet “dashing cads”, baddies bent on world domination and “well-spoken old ladies who are more violent than they might appear”. It’s “gripping, funny” fast-paced – and a “hoot from start to finish”.

Looking for “bite-sized” podcasts to fit a shorter commute? Short Wave from NPR offers accessible and often amusing ten- to 15-minute explorations of the science behind everything from climate change to mental health, said Rachel Aroesti in The Guardian. This is “brain food that’s both enticing and satisfying”.

Alternatively, from Radio 4, the “sub-15-minute tête-à-têtes” on One to One are as insightful as they are concise. In one recent episode, the actress Tuppence Middleton spoke to clinical psychologist Dr Gazal Jones and Pure author Rose Cartwright about OCD. Or delve into the archive for Clive Myrie on immigration or Tim Dowling on ambition.

Last, on the Rob Auton Daily Podcast, the stand-up comedian and poet combines “surreal, lyrical monologues with dry, down-to-earth humour”. Some last for just a couple of minutes, which is “plenty of time for listeners to soak up their evocative, imaginative strangeness”.

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